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Samsung's mobile chief becomes co-CEO

Korean firm now run by triumvirate of executives, seeking to unify its various businesses more effectively


Published: 15 March, 2013

READ MORE: People/Management | South Korea | Samsung

One CEO is apparently not enough to face the challenges ahead for Samsung, and the company has appointed two additional co-CEOs, including JK Shin, the head of the mobile unit which has produced the Galaxy triumph.

Along with Boo-keun Yoon, head of the TV and consumer electronics division, Shin joins vice chairman and CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon at the helm of the giant Korean company. Kwon also directs the chip arm.

The new structure may help Samsung break down the walls which have often existed between its various business units, at a time when they are becoming increasingly inter-dependent - its ready access to memory chips, and advanced processors and displays, is critical to the success of the smartphone and tablet lines; and it is looking towards a future multiscreen strategy with content and user interfaces shared across TVs, mobile devices and PCs.

However, they also have to compete independently and try to secure deals with clients which may compete with Samsung in other areas, a tricky balance (the foundering relations with Apple, at times Samsung's largest customer, being the biggest example).

In a statement, Samsung said "the new leadership structure will serve to clarify and enhance independent management of the two set divisions, as well as the independent management of the set and component businesses".

Five years ago, Samsung suffered a leadership crisis when group chairman Lee Kun-hee was involved in a bribery scandal. At the time, a senior executive - Lee Soo-bin, chairman of Samsung Life Insurance - said the firm was "without a captain or rudder" and saw "each unit meeting cut-throat competition independently". While the current leadership has clearly addressed some of the issues of a broken structure, the new triumvirate will aim to build a newly united base. Lee Kun-hee, whose father Lee Byung-chull founded Samsung in 1938, remains the overall chairman and figurehead.

After heading the launch of the Galaxy S4 in New York City, the newly elevated Shin told The Wall Street Journal that he was still not satisfied with Galaxy's market share in the US, Apple's stronghold. Refusing to be triumphalist over the success of the flagship smartphone, he instead pointed out remaining challenges - for instance, Samsung's Windows Phone products have seen "lackluster demand" in Europe.

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