Lee Kun-hee (Yonhap News)
The Seoul District Central Court on Friday sided with Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee by dismissing the claims by his elder brother Lee Maeng-hee for around 4.8 trillion won ($4.4 billion) of the Samsung fortune.
Lee was joined by a few other members of the Samsung family who felt they were shortchanged in their rightful inheritance from the late Lee Byung-chull, their father and founder of Samsung.
In the ruling for the first trial on the case, the judge said that “the time has expired for requesting the recovery of inheritance over Samsung Life stocks.” He also said “it is difficult to regard the Samsung Electronics stocks as inheritance.”
Representatives for Lee Maeng-hee signaled that he would appeal.
In February last year, the elder Lee had filed a lawsuit claiming ownership over some 38 million shares of Samsung Life that had been under borrowed names, and over 2 million shares of Samsung Electronics under borrowed names, along with another 12,000 shares of the company’s preferred stocks.
Lee also demanded his share of dividends and the money remaining from an earlier sale of Samsung Electronics shares after a previous special investigation into the company.
A large part of the Samsung fortune had been under borrowed names, a policy adopted by the late Samsung founder that was inherited by his successor Lee Kun-hee until 2008 upon government intervention.
There had been concerns that should the ruling favor Lee Maeng-hee, the governance structure of Samsung would be altered, with Samsung Everland left to fend for itself as the top stakeholder of the company.
Further, the elder Lee would have a bigger say in management matters, which is another concern for the Samsung Electronics chairman.
But if and when Lee ultimately loses the suit, it may appear that the law has chosen to ignore that a large part of the Samsung wealth had been under false names, which is a dilemma the courts face, industry watchers noted.
CJ Group on Friday appeared strained, with officials declining to comment on the outcome.
The company had been suffering disfavors from Samsung due to Lee Maeng-hee’s connection to CJ: he is the father of CJ Group head Lee Jae-hyun.
CJ recently lost up to 350 billion won worth of its contracts for CJ GLS, its logistics arm, after Samsung refused to renew them. Instead, Samsung signed on with its own affiliate, Samsung SDS.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org