SEOUL • The chairman of LG Group, Mr Koo Bon Moo, who helped transform South Korea's fourth-largest conglomerate into a global brand, died yesterday after a battle with a brain disease.
Mr Koo, 73, had been ill for a year, LG Group said in a statement.
He had been fighting a brain disease and had undergone surgery, said a group official who declined to be identified.
"Becoming the third chairman of LG at the age of 50 in 1995, Mr Koo established three key businesses - electronics, chemicals and telecommunications - led a global company LG, and contributed to driving (South Korea's) industrial competitiveness and national economic development," LG said.
In the 23 years since Mr Koo became chairman, total sales at LG Group increased more than five times to 160 trillion won (S$199 billion) last year from 30 trillion won in late 1994. The company's overseas sales increased tenfold to 110 trillion won in the same period.
The South Korean home-appliance maker, which produced its first radio in 1959, also became one of the world's top five phone brands and its LCD business is now neck and neck with Samsung Electronics.
LG Group also established a holding company in order to streamline ownership structure and to begin the process of succession.
The country's powerful family-run conglomerates are implementing generational succession amid growing calls from the government and the public to improve transparency and corporate governance.
LG Corp, a holding company of the conglomerate, had said last Thursday its long-time chairman was unwell and it planned to nominate his son to its board of directors in preparation for a leadership succession.
Heir apparent Koo Kwang Mo, 40, is from the fourth generation of LG Group's controlling family. He owns 6 per cent of LG Corp and currently heads LG Electronics' information display unit.
He joined the finance division of LG Electronics in 2006 and has been involved in several businesses such as appliances, home entertainment and group strategy, LG said.
The late chairman adopted Mr Koo Kwang Mo in 2004 from his younger brother, Mr Koo Bon Neung, chairman of Heesung Group, after his only son died in a car accident.
The change at the helm is not expected to be disruptive to the group's business, one analyst told Reuters.
The company said Mr Koo's funeral would be held privately with family members. Visitors, including Samsung Group heir Lee Jae Yong, have paid their respects at his altar.