Samsung CEO To Leave Company Over “Unprecedented Crisis”

Image courtesy of Eric Hauser

It hasn’t exactly been a great year for Samsung: The company’s vice chairman was indicted, arrested, and then sentenced to five years in prison in connection to a massive South Korean bribery case, then there were the Galaxy Note 7 and washing machine explosion debacles. Now the CEO of the tech giant’s electronics division is heading for the door amid what he calls an “unprecedented crisis” within the company.

Samsung announced today that CEO — and current vice chairman — Oh-Hyun Kwon will leave the company in March and not seek another term on the board.

Kwon, who has worked for the company for 32 years, announced his departure in a letter to employees, noting that the move is something he had “been thinking long and hard about for quite some time.”

While Kwon says he is proud of what the company has accomplished, he believes it needs a new leader “more than ever and it is time for me to move to the next chapter in my life.”

“It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off,” he wrote. “As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that the time has now come for the company start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry.”

Litany Of Issues

Although Kwon didn’t specify what the “unprecedented crisis” within the company is, Samsung has faced a number of issues in recent months.

In August, Samsung vice chairman Jay Y. Lee was found guilty on multiple charges related to a bribery scandal and sentenced to five years in prison.

Lee, who denied any wrongdoing, was first publicly tied to the case in January when he faced 22 hours of questioning related to his part in the scandal.

The questioning and eventual indictment came after the South Korean special prosecutor’s 90-day investigation into a corruption scandal involving now-former South Korea President Park Geun-hye.

The case involved whether or not millions of dollars in payments from Samsung to businesses and foundations run by an associate of the President’s — Choi Soon-sil — constituted a bribe, and if Lee had any personal dealings with the contributions.

Prior to that debacle, the company contended with two very public recalls, one focusing on the Galaxy Note 7 and the other on a washing machines.

As for the phones, Samsung recalled and eventually discontinued the Galaxy Note 7 after several of the devices’ batteries overheated and exploded or caught fire.

When it comes to the washing machines, Samsung recalled 2.8 million top-loading washing machines in Nov. 2016 after several folks had complained about violent, almost explosive, vibrations, that did some significant damage to users — like breaking one person’s jaw.

The company came under scrutiny after the recall, as customers reported issues with scheduling and obtaining repairs for the machines, and receiving rebate checks. 

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