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Dec 05, 2012, 05.02 PM IST | Source: Reuters

Jay Lee, Samsung's unassuming heir apparent

SAMSUNG-JAY-LEE:NEWSMAKER - Jay Lee, Samsung's unassuming heir apparent

Jay Lee, Samsung's unassuming heir apparent

By Miyoung Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - When Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee strode into a celebration last week to mark his quarter century in charge, his only son Jay Y. Lee followed two steps behind in a sign of respect for elders typical of South Korea's Confucian culture.

Over the years, Lee senior urged staff to change "everything but their wife and children" as he sought to transform Samsung into a global leader. He also ordered piles of sub-standard mobile phones to be burned.

On Wednesday, Lee junior, 44, was promoted to vice chairman, moving him a step closer to eventually taking over from his 70-year-old father in what looks to be a well choreographed long-term succession plan. Investors appear to like the idea, with Samsung shares hitting a record 1.455 million won each, valuing the group at close to $200 billion.

Jay Lee has generally shunned the limelight. He has no official Twitter account and little is known of him outside the company - bar a high-profile divorce in early 2009. Lee has a degree in East Asian History from Seoul National University and an MBA from Keio University in Japan.

Critics say Lee doesn't have the experience for the top job, and lacks his father's charisma, but Samsung insiders say his quiet, urbane manner disguises a steely determination Lee will need to keep Samsung at the top of the global television, memory chip, flat screen and mobile phone rankings. Samsung's quarterly revenue is equal to around a fifth of South Korea's GDP.

GRAPHIC: Lee shareholdings http://r.reuters.com/net44t

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