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Lotte chief wins key battle in family feud

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The chairman of South Korea's Lotte Group secured crucial shareholder support Monday in his bitter struggle against his father and elder brother for control of the family-run retail giant.

[SEOUL] The chairman of South Korea's Lotte Group secured crucial shareholder support Monday in his bitter struggle against his father and elder brother for control of the family-run retail giant.

Shareholders of Lotte Holdings - the group's Japan-based de facto holding group - approved corporate governance proposals to be implemented "under the leadership" of the chairman Shin Dong-Bin, Lotte said in a statement.

It said Lotte, the country's fifth largest conglomerate, "welcomed" the vote.

The keenly-watched shareholder meeting moved a step closer to resolving a very public feud between Shin, his father Shin Kyuk-Ho and his elder brother, Shin Dong-Joo.

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Lotte - founded in Tokyo in 1948 by Shin Kyuk-Ho - operates a vast network of businesses including department stores and hotels in South Korea and Japan, whose combined assets are worth around US$90 billion.

The feud began after Dong-Joo and his father sought last month to dismiss a group of senior Lotte Holdings executive board members including Dong-Bin, questioning his management ability.

But Dong-Bin fought back, with the board not only nullifying the dismissals but also removing the father as co-CEO.

The dispute further escalated as the two brothers accused each other of mismanagement and manipulating the frail, 92-year-old Shin Kyuk-Ho whose mental faculties have been called into question.

The company's board members as well as the labour union voiced support for Dong-Bin. But Dong-Joo soldiered on, saying he would await the verdict from the shareholders.

The family feud has renewed public criticism of the wealthy founding families behind the South's family-run conglomerates, known as "chaebol".

Squabbles over control of the business empires have often made headlines, prompting public calls to overhaul their governing structure and improve transparency.

Many families now own a small fraction of the groups' entire stake but still retain control via a complex web of cross-shareholdings.

AFP

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