Koo Bon-moo, the chairman of South Korea’s fourth-largest conglomerate who transformed a local producer of cheap appliance into a global tech and chemical powerhouse over two decades, has died. He was 73.
Koo died Sunday at 9:52 am Seoul time as he did not seek extension of life after falling ill a year ago, according to LG Group in an emailed statement.
The patriarch is expected to be succeeded by his adopted son, Koo Kwang-mo, 40, who was nominated to the board of LG Corp. on Thursday pending the approval of shareholders on June 29.
Chairman Koo underwent multiple brain surgeries in recent years, Yonhap News Agency reported earlier.
In the 23 years since Koo became chairman, total sales at LG Group increased more than five times to $148 billion in 2017 from 30 trillion won in late 1994. The company’s overseas sales increased tenfold to 110 trillion won in the same period.
“Chairman Koo is the one who built the foundation of LG’s global businesses which span batteries to OLED panels and telecom,” said Park Ju-gun, president at corporate research
Under Koo’s 23-year leadership, the South Korean home-appliance maker, which produced its first radio in 1959, became one of the world’s top five phone brands and its LCD business is now neck and neck with Samsung Electronics.
Koo entered the telecom business in the late 1990s and also moved into businesses such as car batteries and energy in search of new revenue.
LG Chem Ltd. has grown into a leading car-battery maker, providing its products to such automakers as Ford Motor Co. and Renault SA. In 2015, LG Electronics Inc. struck a deal to co-develop General Motors Co.’s Bolt electric vehicle.
Koo was the third generation of his family to run the conglomerate, known locally as the chaebol or “wealth clique,” after taking over the helm from his father in 1995.