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Who Owns Samsung? (Samsung Group and the Lee Family)

When you think of Samsung, you probably think of “Samsung Electronics”, but that’s just 1 of 80+ affiliate companies that make up the Samsung brand.

For instance, I bet you didn’t know Samsung is one of the largest ship builders in the world, or that it has an entire financial arm of its business dedicated to life insurance products, credit cards and investments.

So who owns Samsung, and what are all the different companies under the Samsung name?

Who Owns Samsung?

Samsung is owned by Samsung Group (or just “Samsung”). Samsung is a South Korean manufacturing chaebol, run by the Lee family. It is made up of 80+ affiliate companies, specializing in everything from electronics to ship building. The largest Samsung company, Samsung Electronics, accounts for over 70% of Samsung revenues.

A Brief History of Samsung Ownership

Samsung Group is what’s known as a “chaebol” – a large industrial South Korean conglomerate run and controlled by an individual or family.

In this case, Samsung Group is run by a family – the Lee Family.

It was originally started as a grocery trading company by Lee Byung-chul in 1938. (Trading companies buy a specialized range of products, maintain a stock or a shop, and deliver products to customers.)

Samsung founder, Lee Buyng-chul

Over the next thirty years, Samsung diversified into a variety of other businesses, including food processing, textiles, insurance, securities, and retail.

Samsung first started in the electronics industry in 1969, and the construction and shipbuilding industries in the mid-1970s. Almost all of Samsung’s growth would soon follow.

After Lee’s death in 1987, Samsung was taken over by his son, Lee Kun-Hee. Lee Kun-Hee split Samsung into five business groups:

  1. Samsung Group
  2. Shinsegae Group
  3. CJ Group 
  4. Hansol Group
  5. Joongang Group

Under Lee Kun-Hee’s leadership, Samsung Group would become a global electronics market leader. Smartphones, microprocessors, televisions, tablet computers, smartwatches – you name it, Samsung sells it.

Unfortunately Lee Kun-Hee suffered a heart attack in 2014, which left him in a coma for nearly 6 years. He passed away in 2020.

His son, Lee Jae-Yong (Jay Y. Lee) became the de facto leader of Samsung Group.

Samsung Lee Family Tree

Samsung Ownership Structure

Figuring out the exact ownership structure of Samsung Group requires a doctorate in forensics.

Here’s Credit Suisse doing their best to break it down:

“The ownership structure of the whole Samsung group is extremely complicated with some circulars within the affiliates. The chairman and family effectively control the group through their key five holdings in Samsung Everland, Samsung Life, Samsung C&T and Samsung Electronics. The de facto holding company of Samsung group is Samsung Everland, which owns Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.”

Samsung ownership structure

The complex nature of this ownership is by design – it is aimed at cementing family control over Samsung Group.

And it’s worked, so far.

The Lee family has retained control over the companies while owning just a small percentage of their shares.

Samsung Business Units and Companies

There are 80+ different “affiliate” companies that make up Samsung Group, but they all fall into one of four main business units:

  1. Electronics
  2. Machinery and Heavy Industries
  3. Financial Services
  4. Services & Others

As of 2022, Samsung Group has a revenue of $244.2B, assets worth $358.9B and profits of $34.3B. The group employs well over 100,000 people!

Below is a break down of each Samsung business unit, and the companies that comprise them.

Electronics

Samsungs’ electronics companies make both the electronic gadgets that everyone wants; as well as the small pieces that run the world’s technology – from the components in our PCs and mobile phones, to green batteries, and behind-the-scenes IT solutions.

Samsung Electronics

Samsung Electronics leads the global digital market in high-tech electronics manufacturing and digital media. It is responsible for over 70% of the Samsung Groups annual revenue.

Samsung Electronics and its subsidiaries operate four business divisions:

  1. Consumer Electronics (“CE”)
  2. Information technology & Mobile communications (“IM”)
  3. Device Solutions (“DS”)
  4. Harman

CE division includes digital TVs, monitors, air conditioners and refrigerators.

IM division includes mobile phones, communication systems, and computers.

DS division includes semiconductor products such as memory, foundry, and system LSI (“Semiconductor”), and display products such as LCD and OLED panels (“DP”).

Harman division includes connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions and connected services.

Samsung Display

Samsung Display is a global leader in the display industry, realising unimaginable technologies based on the best technical skills that bring LCD & OLED to small-medium and extra-large products.

Samsung SDI

Samsung SDI takes the lead in the development of new energy solutions by manufacturing the world’s leading secondary cell products, PV and ESS (Energy Storage Systems).

Samsung Electro-Mechanics

Samsung Electro-Mechanics produces high-tech integrated components of electronics and mechanical devices that use the invisible but incredible power to move the world.

Samsung SDS

Samsung SDS is an information and communication technology (ICT) service provider offering innovative products that help make the world a smarter and more convenient place.

Samsung Corning Advanced Glass

Samsung Corning Advanced Glass is leading electronic material industry by producing OLED glass substrates and sputtering targets.

Machinery & Heavy Industries

Machinery & Heavy Industries division handles diverse projects that include shipbuilding, engineering and construction, wind power, and power and control systems.

Samsung Heavy Industries

Samsung Heavy Industries, the world leader in shipbuilding and offshore development, pioneers new technologies and industry-leading services across various industry sectors including high-value shipbuilding, energy solutions and power and control systems.

Samsung C&T Engineering Construction Group

Samsung C&T Corporation a leading global engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company, offers industry-leading value with advance technological expertise and experience across architecture, civil engineering, and plant and housing development.

Samsung Engineering

Samsung Engineering is a leading engineering, procurement, construction and project management specialist for global markets.

Financial Services

Samsung’s financial services companies, serving customers in Korea, include insurance, investments and credit card businesses.

Samsung Life Insurance

Samsung Life Insurance is South Korea’s largest insurance company with top consumer ratings, and prides itself on being a life-long partner to its policy holders.

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance

Samsung Fire & Marine Insurance offers globally competitive insurance policies and services across regions including the U.S., Europe, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Korea.

Samsung Card

Samsung Card is an integrated financial service company that promotes healthy spending and everyday convenience, providing lifestyle privileges that enhance the quality of its customers’ lives.

Samsung Securities

Samsung Securities, the leading Korean financial investment company, provides asset management service to individual investors through market-leading products and solutions, while providing the best brokerage service to institutional investors based on competitive research and IT capabilities.

Samsung Asset Management

Samsung Asset Management, Korea’s leading investment management company, specializes in investment trust & mutual fund management, advisory and related products and services.

Samsung Venture Investment

Samsung Venture Investment, a venture capital firm, actively invests in future-oriented businesses across a variety of industries, providing a comprehensive solution, which includes not only investment funds but also management support, technical support and market registration.

Services & Others

Among Samsung’s other affiliates are companies that offer professional services, develop textiles and serve industries such as hospitality and tourism.

Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group

Samsung C&T Trading & Investment Group strives to expand growth businesses under the strategy of “select and focus” to secure competitiveness in both trading and organizing.

The Shilla Hotels and Resorts

The Shilla Hotels and Resorts is a leader in the hospitality industry, providing award-winning service and unparalleled customer experience.

Cheil Worldwide

Cheil Worldwide is a global advertising company that provides both practical solutions and groundbreaking ideas for clients.

S-1 Corporation

S-1 Corporation, a pioneer in professional security, combines state-of-the-art IT technologies with security expertise.

Samsung Economic Research Institute

Samsung Economic Research Institute, Korea’s largest private think tank, provides analysis on macroeconomic development, global issues, technology & industry trends, public policy, human resources and management issues.

Samsung Medical Center

Samsung Medical Center is a patient-centered hospital leading the medical community in providing top patient care, advanced medical research and medical personnel training and development.

Samsung Biologics

Samsung Biologics develops and manufactures high-quality biopharmaceutical products with the aim of increasing the accessibility and affordability of existing medicines and delivering breakthrough medicines to patients around the world.

Samsung Bioepis

Samsung Bioepis is devoted to contributing to the development of the pharmaceutical industry and human health through its creation of affordable and high-quality biopharmaceutical and biosimilar products.

Samsung Welstory

Samsung Welstory delivers innovative food service experiences that enrich people’s health lives through customer commitment and quality of service.

Samsung Fashion

Samsung Fashion is a leader in the fashion industry with successful brands such as Beanpole and 8seconds.

Samsung Resort

Samsung Resort Group delivers unique and innovative services in resort and golf course operation, food and beverage, and landscaping.

Conclusion

Samsung is owned by Samsung Group (or just “Samsung”), and controlled by the Lee Family.

The ownership structure of the whole Samsung Group is extremely complicated with some circulars within the affiliates.

The chairman and family effectively control the group through their key five holdings in Samsung Everland, Samsung Life, Samsung C&T and Samsung Electronics.

The de facto holding company of Samsung Group is Samsung Everland, which owns Samsung Life and Samsung Electronics.

The complicated nature of this ownership is by design – it has allowed the Lee family to retain control over Samsung while owning just a small percentage of their shares.