LG's influential chairman Koo Bon-moo dies

He was instrumental to making LG a global tech giant.

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SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The tech industry just lost one of its more important personalities. LG Group chairman Koo Bon-moo has died at 73 after fighting brain disease since 2017. As is common among giant South Korean corporations, his son (LG Electronics' info display leader Koo Kwang-mo) is expected to take the reins. Koo Bon-moo was the third generation of LG's founding family, but was widely credited with turning the company into the influential tech giant it is today.

He became chairman in 1995, back when LG was called Lucky Goldstar and the entire company was happy to make 30 trillion won in revenue (about $27 billion if it made that money today). In the following years, however, he committed to both international expansion as well as fateful investments in displays (particularly LCDs) and lithium-ion batteries that became crucial as smartphones, flat-panel TVs and PCs took off. Skip forward to 2018 and LG is achieving record performance, albeit in spite of its lackluster mobile division.

This isn't to say that Koo Bon-Moo's tenure was all positive. The familial connection has proved problematic beyond typical complaints about nepotism -- prosecutors just recently raided LG Group's offices while investigating claims of tax evasion by family members. And while LG is much larger than it used to be, it has frequently remained in the shadow of its arch-rival Samsung with only a few areas (such as OLED TVs) where it clearly stands out. With that said, it's not certain that LG would be this large without Koo Bon-moo's help.

The future of the company isn't likely to be in jeopardy, whatever your opinion of the late chairman. LG is financially stable, and Koo Kwang-mo is no stranger to either executive leadership or the company's various divisions (including appliances, home entertainment and overall strategy). For now, he only really has to focus on keeping the corporate ship afloat.

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