The business on...Lee Kun-hee, Chairman, Samsung

James Moore
Saturday 08 October 2011 00:00
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The only part of the tech world not in mourning?

Ah yes. Even rival tech firms have been free with the tributes to Apple's boss Steve Jobs. Google, for example, had a bar at the foot of its home page reading "Steve Jobs 1955-2011". Log on to Samsung's site and it's blaring out "it's time for a better tablet". No prizes for guessing what Mr Lee's company (he's actually the son of the founder) is taking aim at.

Can Samsung really rival Apple?

Well, Mr Lee had reason to be upbeat yesterday. Samsung beat analysts' forecasts, largely thanks to smartphones. Its Galaxy is No 2 in the market, thanks to the growing popularity of devices running Google's Android software. The number one? That would be Apple's iPhone, which runs its own software. But a profit of 4.2trn won (£2.3bn) against the analysts' consensus of 3.7trn won is not to be sniffed at.

What's with the Apple vs Samsung stuff?

Mr Lee and the late Mr Jobs had been at daggers drawn over those tablets for a long time. They'd been throwing lawsuits at each other all over the world. And that was despite one of Apple's component suppliers being, erm, Samsung.

Oh dear

Indeed. Interestingly, there are some parallels between the two men. Like Mr Jobs, Mr Lee stepped down from his company only to make a swift return. And like Mr Jobs, Mr Lee has transformed his business. In the early 90s, with Samsung producing a mass of largely low-quality products, he said: "Change everything except your wife and kids."

And the difference?

Well, yes. Mr Jobs was ousted from Apple as a result of a boardroom tussle. The company then called him back to rescue it (and how). Mr Lee had to quit after tax evasion and breach of trust charges following a three-year inquiry into corruption at Samsung.

Ouch

Yes indeed. But it's OK. He got a presidential pardon, ostensibly so he could help South Korea's successful bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But with question marks surrounding Samsung, his return soon followed.

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