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13 October 2017, 08:40 | Brandon Parsons
Samsung CEO Kwon to step down even as chip business thrives
But just when it seemed things were peaking, Samsung must deal with another setback after CEO and vice chairman Kwon Oh-hyun announced that he is planning to step down from his role as CEO of Samsung and Samsung Display in March of 2018.
Kwon Oh-Hyun's resignation comes as the company struggles to overcome a bribery scandal that sent Lee Jae-Yong, its de-facto head and heir to the Samsung empire, to jail.
"It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time".
Lee's father, Lee Kun-hee, who still retains the chairman title, has been bedridden since 2014 due to health problems, and Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to five years in prison in August for bribing former President Park Geun-hye. "It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off", Kwon said in his letter.
"There are no words to describe how proud I am that we built together one of the most valuable companies in the world". "But now the company needs a new leader more than ever and it is time for me to move to the next chapter of my life".
Kwon will also recommend a successor for his position, a Samsung spokesperson said.
Kwon's sudden departure may be a calculated legal tactic to seek a softer punishment for Lee, said Shim Jung-Taik, an author of several books on Samsung and its corporate culture. He later served as head of the division producing system semiconductors and then as head of the semiconductor business before becoming CEO of the company in 2012. Kwon eventually became the CEO of Samsung Display in 2016.
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But in a sign of good news for the company, its estimated operating profits for the July-September period of 14.5 trillion won ($12.8 billion) marked a record for quarterly profit, almost tripling the 5.2 trillion won earned a year earlier.
South Korea's largest company has been seeking to move past a bribery scandal that saw Lee thrown into jail, and to overcome a damaging recall previous year of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 smartphone over exploding batteries.
"Kwon himself might have thought over the issue for a long time", a Samsung spokesperson said, "but the notice itself was a surprise internally as well".
One analyst who declined to be named said the departure of the 64-year-old Samsung veteran may signal a broader reshuffle at the top.
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