Jay Y. Lee, vice president of Samsung, will be released on bail on Friday. Politicians, public opinion and businesses alike fear that Samsung will miss out on opportunities if the CEO cannot manage.
Jay Y. Lee is currently serving a prison sentence for, among other things, bribery and embezzlement. He bribed a good friend of the former Korean president.
Getting and keeping Lee in jail proves difficult. In August 2017, the man was given a five-year sentence, of which he served one year before the sentence itself was suspended and subsequently reduced. He has been behind bars since January but is now released on bail.
The reason for this is remarkable. Lee has repaid the embezzled amounts but can also count on broad public and political support. For example, Reuters says that lobby groups from the Korean business community welcome his release to lead Samsung again.
Although the day-to-day operation of Samsung continues, supporters fear that no strategic decisions will be made at the company without Lee. This could put the technology giant behind in the long run. Moreover, this is detrimental to Samsung itself and South Korea, which owes a large part of its GDP to the company.
Remarkably, this is not a one-time misstep by Jay Y. Lee. A lawsuit is also pending over accounting fraud and stock market manipulation following a merger between two Samsung companies and a case involving the illegal use of a narcotic drug. But that does not seem to be an objection to keeping the CEO in prison for the time being.