Samsung Electronics names non-executive director as board chairman in company first

SEOUL (Reuters) – Samsung Electronics Co Ltd said on Friday it has named a non-executive director as board chairman for the first time, to increase transparency and independence.

Former Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan replaces Lee Sang-hoon who was jailed in December for interfering with union activities.

The appointment, which is effective immediately, comes as Samsung heir apparent Jay Y. Lee and former executives face trial for alleged involvement in a bribery scandal linked to impeached President Park Geun-hye.

Samsung said Bahk, 65, has served as an outside director at the smartphone and semiconductor maker since March 2016 and “has a deep understanding of the company and the board”.

Bahk “has a wealth of experience as an administrator … and is expected to lead the board’s strategic decisions,” it said.

“I don’t place much meaning in this appointment,” said Park Sang-in, a professor at Seoul National University and a specialist in corporate governance. “Bahk has been with the Samsung board so he is sort of a Samsung man.”

Bahk’s predecessor resigned less than two years after his appointment split the chairman and chief executive roles for the first time to enhance board independence as Jay Y. Lee became embroiled in the presidential scandal.

Samsung’s board chairman is not involved in day-to-day business operations but chairs meetings to review and approve major business decisions including investment plans.

The company is scheduled to hold an annual general meeting on March 18, where shareholders will vote on whether to approve the appointment of two board nominees.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Additional reporting by Joori Roh and Heekyong Yang; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Christopher Cushing)

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