Samsung chairman set to fight back in tussle for shares

Lee Kun-hee Mr Lee's father founded the Samsung Group but died without leaving a will

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The chairman of Samsung Electronics, Lee Kun-hee, will this week defend three lawsuits from family members claiming ownership of $1bn (£642m) worth of the company's assets.

Mr Lee, who is South Korea's richest man, will go up against his older brother and sister in court.

Samsung Electronics, part of Samsung Group, is the world's largest electronics company by revenue.

The fight comes as the company is also facing stiff competition from rivals.

Samsung Group is a family controlled conglomerate that produces about one fifth of South Korea's total exports.

It has annual sales of about $234bn and includes a wide range of businesses, including shipping, engineering and smartphones.

The family feud for shares involves the group's insurance unit, Samsung Life, as well as Samsung Electronics.

Analysts have said Mr Lee is more likely to want to work the matter out quickly with his siblings than continue the ownership wrangle.

"Lee (Kun-hee) would prefer to settle in cash because losing some of this stake in Samsung Life could spark a bigger ownership restructuring in key Samsung companies," said analyst Jun Yon-ki from Hyundai Securities.

Samsung is currently fighting its main customer and rival, Apple, in more than 30 court cases over design and patents.

Who wants what?

Lee Kun-hee's older brother Maeng-hee wants shares in Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.

His older sister Lee Sook-hee also wants shares in Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.

Together, the two siblings are aiming for about 25% of their younger brother's stake in Samsung Life, which is the majority shareholder of Samsung Electronics - the star of the Samsung Group.

Maeng-hee has argued that his younger brother inherited about $3.8bn of shares from their father without telling other family members who may have been entitled to some of the shares.

The third lawsuit has been filed by other relatives seeking a small slice of Samsung Life shares.

Lee Kun-hee is widely credited with transforming his family's company into one of the world's biggest makers of televisions and mobile phones. Lee's father, Byun-chul, founded the group in 1938 but died without leaving a will.

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