Samsung CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon surprised colleagues and industry observers Friday by announcing his intention to resign his post, after 32 years with the company.
Kwon has been serving as Samsung Electronics’ chairman of the board and a board director as well as heading up the company's display and components businesses. The company said he will serve out his term on the board, which is up in March, and then retire.
His resignation is the latest in a series of management departures in the wake of last year's bribery scandal that ousted vice chairman Jay Y. Lee, the son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-he, as well as the President of South Korea, Park Geun-hye. Jay Lee was sent to prison in February and his deputy, Choi Gee-sung, who temporarily stepped into the leadership void left by Lee, also quit earlier this year after his role in the scandal emerged. Kwon then took over as CEO.
Kwon was not implicated in the scandal.
In an emotional letter sent to all employees, Kwon, 64, said announcing his retirement was the most difficult thing for him to do, but that now was the right time and that he believes his decision is in the best interest of the company.
“It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time,” he wrote. “It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off. As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside [and] out, I believe [the] time has now come for the company to start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry.”
Kwon, a Ph.D. known as "Mr. Chip" by the Korean press, joined the company in 1985 as a Samsung researcher at the Semiconductor Research Institute in the U.S. He also served as president and head of the company’s System LSI division and as president and head of its semiconductor business before becoming CEO of Samsung Electronics in 2012. He has been CEO of Samsung Display since 2016.
The announcement came as Samsung is forecasting record annual profits, mostly driven by the company's chip business, which was cultivated by Kwon.