The chairman of the Samsung Group, Lee Kun-hee, comes in at number 106 on Forbes’ list of the world’s top billionaires, with a reported net worth of $8.3 billion, as of March. But did he acquire some of that fortune illegally from his late father’s trust? That’s what his brother and sister accuse him of in a recent lawsuit that is growing uglier by the day.
In February, Kun-hee’s older brother, Lee Maeng-hee, filed the suit in Seoul, South Korea. Now joined by two other family members, the lawsuit claims that when their father, Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chull, died in 1987, he left millions of shares in Samsung Life Insurance (the world’s 14th largest insurance company) as well as preferred stock in Samsung Electronics and cash, in trust. Specifically, he placed the asset into the name of Samsung executives for the benefit of his family. Lee Kun-hee then wrongfully took the stock and cash and transferred it into his own name, rather than dividing it among the heirs as he was supposed to, according to the allegations.
The U.S. value of the stock is around $877 million. If Kun-hee loses, it could potentially cause him to lose his controlling interest in the Samsung Group, which controls dozens of companies, including Samsung Electronics.