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(2nd LD) Samsung chief Lee Kun-hee receives emergency heart treatment

2014/05/11 16:15

SEOUL, May 11 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. chairman Lee Kun-hee underwent an emergency medical procedure after showing symptoms of heart failure and has been hospitalized, company officials said Sunday.

Lee, 72, received cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) at a hospital near his home in central Seoul Saturday night and was immediately rushed to Samsung Medical Center (SMC) where he underwent a procedure early Sunday morning for myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, according to the officials.

The procedure involved stent placement, referring to a treatment where medical tubes are inserted into the body to widen blood vessels to prevent a heart attack.

"He was rushed to a nearby hospital as he was having breathing problems Saturday night. After arriving at the hospital, he received CPR due to new symptoms of a heart attack," an official said. "He was then moved to Samsung Medical Center and hospitalized after the treatment."

   "He is in a very stable condition and is resting," he added.

Experts, however, say Lee's condition needs to be closely watched for at least a day.

Lee, the de facto chief of South Korea's top conglomerate Samsung Group, had received lung surgery in the late 1990s and has been suffering from respiratory complications since then.

He had been hospitalized for about 10 days in August last year due to cold-turned-pneumonia, raising concerns about his health. He is supported by family members or guards when walking.

Due to his medical history, Lee stays overseas during the winter season to prevent respiratory ailments. For this year, he returned to Seoul in April after months away in the U.S.

"It is too early to comment, but there was excellent early treatment, and the procedure at SMC went well, so we do not anticipate serious problems," SMC said.

It did not say how long Lee was expected to stay hospitalized.

The Samsung Group has been carrying out a broad range of mergers and restructuring in what industry watchers believe to be preparations for a managerial transfer to Lee's son Jay-yong due to the tycoon's health problems.

Last week, Samsung SDS Co., a key IT unit of the group, announced a plan to go public on the main bourse within this year, citing its efforts to strengthen overseas business.

However, the company's abrupt announcement sparked speculation that the business group was taking steps to hand over the reins to Lee's three children.

Analysts say Samsung Group is attempting to divide the group into three mainstays with a holding company.

Jay-yong, Lee's only son, is seen as likely to inherit Samsung Electronics, the flagship of the group, and other electronics and financial affiliates like Samsung Life Insurance Co., while oldest daughter Boo-jin, who heads Hotel Shilla, will take charge of the hotel, construction and heavy chemical industry businesses. Her younger sister Seo-hyun is expected to lead the fashion and media sectors.

Jay-yong, a vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, is expected to sell his shares at Samsung SDS to secure cash needed to purchase stakes in other key Samsung affiliates to complete his succession. He holds an 11.25 percent stake at Samsung SDS as of end-2013.

Once Samsung SDS' initial public offering (IPO) is completed, Jay-yong will likely hold 2.5 trillion won worth of listed Samsung shares.

Earlier in March, Samsung SDI Co., the world's top maker of TV displays and smartphone batteries, merged with Cheil Industries Co., which produces electronics and chemical materials.

Cheil Industries' traditional business of fashion and textiles was moved to Samsung Everland Inc., the group's de facto holding firm, last year, and Seo-hyun, who had been vice president of Cheil Industries, was named president of the fashion division at Samsung Everland.

"Samsung Group intends to have Everland control the entire group as a holding company with influential stakes at every affiliate," said a market analyst. "This will lead to a division of the group to three children."

   Lee Kun-hee, the youngest of the sons of Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chul, inherited the conglomerate now famous as a global name in smartphones, chips, household appliances and home entertainment systems. He was recently embroiled in a court feud with his siblings over their father's inheritance, but they dropped the suit.