In midst of global smartphone battle, Samsung shuffles top execs

December 1, 2015
Samsung headquarters in South Korea (Yonhap)

Samsung headquarters in South Korea (Yonhap)

By Yoon Sung-won

Changing leadership in the middle of a global smartphone battle seems to be part of Samsung’s latest strategy to vie for the top spot.

The nation’s top conglomerate appointed six new presidents and one executive vice president while transferring eight president-level executives within its affiliates, according to the Samsung Corporate Strategy Office, Tuesday.

The reshuffle, which was the first under the group’s de-facto leader Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, did not include any promotions for the Samsung owner’s family members. It can be seen as a move to seek prudence in the time of a generation shift of management and intensifying market competition.

The small-scale personnel promotion and transfer also struck a contrast to that of LG Group, the nation’s fourth-largest conglomerate, which made rather drastic changes in its top management for next year.

“We have changed the leader of a key business in the end-product sector to refresh the organization’s atmosphere for a leap,” said Samsung Group in a statement. “We also have reinforced our personnel principle of respecting tech-savvy managers by promoting those who lead development of core mobile and semiconductor products to the presidential level.”

For Samsung Electronics, the group appointed a new head for its mobile communications business to survive fierce competition with Apple and rapidly growing Chinese brands.

It promoted executive vice president Koh Dong-jin, who was previously in charge of mobile R&D, to president of the mobile business.

Koh led the development of the company’s premium smartphone Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5.

“Koh is expected to lead the second leap of the mobile business as he has vision and expertise on the development of solutions and services such as mobile security software KNOX and mobile payment service Samsung Pay,” said Samsung Group in a statement.

President Shin Jong-kyun, who previously headed the mobile communications business, will retain his position as CEO of the IT & Mobile Communications Division to concentrate on long-term business strategies.

As Shin, who had been expected to be replaced in the reshuffle, came to remain in office, Samsung Electronics will also be managed by three co-CEOs _ Device Solutions Division CEO and Vice Chairman Kwon Oh-hyun, Consumer Electronics (CE) Division CEO and President Yoon Boo-keun and Shin.

The group promoted Chung Chil-hee as a new president of Samsung Electronics, succeeding Kwon’s role as head of Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology. Jun Dong-soo, the former CEO and President of Samsung SDS, was transferred to president of Samsung Electronics CE Division’s health and medical equipment business.

Replacing Jun, Samsung Economic Research Institute (SERI) Executive Advisor Chung Yoo-sung was named as the new CEO of Samsung SDS. Samsung Electronics’ global marketing office president Hong Won-pyo moved to Samsung SDS to head its business solutions division.

Tcha Moon-joong, who had played an advisory role at Samsung Electronics, has been promoted as executive vice president and CEO of SERI.

The biopharmaceutical and biosimilar product affiliate Samsung Bioepis saw its CEO Ko Han-sung promoted to president, reflecting the group’s willingness to boost its presence in the medical and pharmaceutical sectors.

In the group’s key business-planning arm the Future Strategy Office, executive vice president Sung Yeol-woo and Jung Hyun-ho were promoted as new presidents. Sung and Jung will head the legal and human resources teams, respectively.

Samsung Group also promoted Han In-gyu as the new president of Hotel Shilla’s duty free business division.

Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee’s daughter, Lee Seo-hyun, who used to lead management strategy for both Cheil Worldwide and Samsung C&T’s fashion division, became the president of Samsung C&T’s entire fashion group.

Yoon Joo-hwa, who had served as CEO of the fashion business at Samsung C&T before Lee, transferred to the Samsung Corporate Social Responsibility Committee.
Samsung Group is expected to execute a follow-up management reshuffle of vice president-level executives on Friday and announce the results next week.

As the conglomerate has been working to balance gender in management, it is expected to promote many female executives. It is also likely that the group under the leadership of Lee Jae-yong will appoint new executives who are younger and have strong educational backgrounds to accelerate its generation shift.