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Lotte Japan votes to keep imprisoned Shin on board

June 30,2018
Shareholders of Lotte’s Japanese holding company voted to retain imprisoned Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin as director, dashing his estranged older brother Shin Dong-joo’s hopes to take over the position.

At the meeting held at Lotte Holdings’ headquarters in Tokyo, shareholders voted against ousting Shin Dong-bin from the board and replacing him with his older brother. Shin Dong-joo has been trying to overthrow his brother since all of his titles, including vice chairman of Lotte Japan, were stripped from him in 2015. This was his fifth unsuccessful attempt to win over Lotte Holdings’ shareholders.

His younger brother Shin Dong-bin, who has been in jail since February on charges of bribery related to President Park Geun-hye’s abuse of power scandal, requested bail earlier this month in order to make his case to the shareholders in the latest meeting. However, his request went unanswered until late Thursday. A team of Lotte Group executives in Korea, including Vice Chairman Hwang Gak-gyu, had to deliver Shin’s letter to Lotte Holdings’ top management.

“We’re relieved that the shareholders of Lotte’s Japanese unit expressed their support for Chairman Shin despite his vacancy,” said Lotte Corporation, Lotte’s Korean holding company, in a statement issued immediately after the results came out.

The statement also condemned Shin Dong-joo. It requested that he “stop evoking needless controversies that create an uneasy sentiment among [Lotte] employees and degrade the company’s value.”

Shin Dong-joo issued a statement through his SDJ Corporation that the older Shin will “continue pushing efforts to normalize Lotte Group,” implying that he may continue to campaign to take over his younger brother’s position at the retail conglomerate.

A few days after his imprisonment, Shin resigned as co-CEO of Lotte Holdings. The chairman’s detainment raised concerns at the group’s Korean unit, as Shin Dong-joo reignited his efforts to regain control over Lotte.

Friday’s vote, however, indicates that Lotte’s Japanese unit still has faith in Shin Dong-bin’s leadership, despite a tendency for Japanese shareholders to be harsher on top brass accused of bribery charges.

Lotte Holdings and its other Japanese affiliates currently own a large stake in the group’s core Korean businesses, like Hotel Lotte and Lotte Property & Development. Their approval is crucial for Lotte Group’s Korean affiliates’ plan to reduce the stakes that Japanese affiliates hold in them.

“The restructuring is not a one-shot deal - we’re doing what we can, like acquiring shares little by little,” said a Lotte Group spokesman.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]