SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – A feud over the riches of South Korea’s Samsung business empire has erupted in public as family members prepare to take an inheritance battle to court.
Lee Kun-hee, chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., which is the flagship company of the Samsung conglomerate, is facing off against his older brother, a sister and a nephew’s wife who all want a bigger piece of the Samsung cake.
The court battle might upset a dynastic succession in Samsung’s leadership as it could result in the unraveling of a cross-shareholding structure that allows Lee Kun-hee to control the group as a minority shareholder.
Lee, who is South Korea’s wealthiest individual, on Tuesday took the rare step of publicly attacking his brother, Lee Meng-hee, declaring on YTN television that the 81-year-old “has been already kicked out from our home.” Lee Meng-hee had earlier called his brother “greedy” and “childlike.”
Battles for control of Chaebol, South Korea’s family-controlled industrial groups that wield immense power over the economy, are not uncommon but it is unusual for the internal wrangling to become public.
Lee Meng-hee filed a lawsuit in February, demanding more than 700 billion won ($613 million) of shares in Samsung Life Insurance Co. and other companies. Similar claims followed by Lee’s older sister and the wife of a dead nephew.
Lee Kun-hee, the third son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chull, was tapped in 1979 by his father to lead what would become South Korea’s most valuable company. The decision apparently disappointed Lee Meng-hee who later wrote in his autobiography that he had thought his father would turn over the throne to him.
The 70-year-old Samsung chairman has refused to settle the dispute out of court. A date for the first hearing in the case will be announced after the court reviews responses from Samsung, said lawyer Jeong Jin-su of Yoon & Yang LLC, which represents the three plaintiffs.