Showjumping supporter and Samsung boss Lee Kun-hee dies at 78

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Lee Kun-hee (1942-2020).
Lee Kun-hee (1942-2020). © IOC/Richard Julliart

Loyal showjumping supporter, IOC member and former Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee has died at the age of 78.

He became a well-known figure in equestrian sport with Samsung Electronics’ loyal support for jumping through its sponsorship of the FEI Nations Cup, which became known as the Samsung Super League between 2003 and 2008. This series featured the world’s eight best national teams battling it out at eight of the most prestigious equestrian venues.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos said Lee left a “huge legacy” and was a strong supporter of sport. “His sponsorship of our Nations Cup, which then became known as the Samsung Super League, contributed immensely to the evolution of this prestigious series and for this we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Lee was chairman of the Samsung Group from 1987 to 2008 and 2010 to 2020.

Samsung was also a great supporter of the Olympic Movement, dating back to 1988 when the company became local sponsor of the Seoul Olympic Games and going on to become a Worldwide Olympic Partner and subsequently Top Partner with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), a partnership that is still in place today.

Born in January 1942, he was the third son of Samsung Group’s founder Lee Byung-chull. Lee Kun-hee joined the then small family firm in 1968 as executive director and took the helm as Chairman in 1987, following his father’s death. Lee was a true visionary, who pushed the company up the technological ladder, making Samsung a world-leading innovator and Samsung Electronics one of the world’s biggest tech firms.

Lee was elected an IOC Member in 1996 and was made an Honorary Member in 2017. He occupied several distinguished positions in the Republic of Korea, including vice-chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries from 1987, vice-chairman of the Korea-Japan Economic Committee from 1981, member of the Korea-US Wisemen Council from 1991, Director of the Korean Youth Association (since 1982), and vice-chairman of the Korean Alumni Reunion of Waseda University from 1997.

Lee suffered a heart attack in 2014, requiring long-term medical care and meaning that his son Lee Jae-yong took over as de facto leader of the multinational giant.

Lee Kun-hee died in Korea on October 25.

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