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Samsung could announce a new CEO this week

Oct 23,2017

Samsung Electronics could name a new chief executive officer in charge of semiconductors as early as this week, sources in the company said Sunday.

The executive will succeed Kwon Oh-hyun, whose sudden resignation announcement on Oct. 13 surprised the Korean corporate world.

Samsung’s board of directors is scheduled to meet on Oct. 31 to approve a successor. The board has played a major role in corporate decision-making ever since the tech giant’s powerful Future Strategy Office was dismantled in March following allegations of bribery.

In August, Samsung’s leader, Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption. His company had offered donations to a friend of former President Park Geun-hye in return for political favors.

“I intend to recommend the person to replace me,” Kwon told reporters during a business trip in Washington last Thursday, “which will be determined at the board meeting,”

Kwon spent 32 years at Samsung and abruptly announced his resignation on Oct. 13, saying “the company now needs a new leader more than ever.” He warned that the company’s recent record performance, driven by healthy demand for semiconductors, was “merely the outcome of past decisions and investments.”

The resignation of Kwon, who was appointed by Lee’s father, Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who has been in a coma since May 2014, signals the official end of the patriarch’s reign over the company. His son, Lee Jae-yong, is fighting his prison sentence and will likely be issued a suspended sentence during the appeal, allowing his influence in the country’s top conglomerate to grow.

Kim Ki-nam, 60, is said to be the most likely candidate, given his experience working directly under Kwon as president of Samsung’s semiconductor business.

Other industry observers are forecasting a younger figure, potentially one in his or her 50s and working at a Samsung operation in Silicon Valley, to add a breath of fresh air to the company. By comparison, Kwon, who is stepping down, is 66.

Should a younger CEO be named, the scale of a routine executive reshuffle is likely to be larger than under a more senior figure.

“A reshuffle shouldn’t take too long to get the management going as normal,” a Samsung spokesman said, without providing further details.

Samsung has stalled a routine reshuffle at the top ever since the corruption scandal broke out a year ago. A reshuffle is expected to occur as soon as a new chief executive is named, which would be earlier than the usual schedule of early December.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]