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Korean Air CEO: ownership discussions ongoing after patriarch's death

Seoul

KOREAN Air Lines Co Ltd's chief executive on Monday said ownership discussions are ongoing with family members after their patriarch's sudden death in April raised questions about the future of the airline and parent Hanjin Group.

Listed holding company Hanjin Kal Corp has been led by 43-year-old Walter Cho since the death of his father, chairman Cho Yang-ho. However, it has yet to inform regulators who will officially lead the group, whose businesses also include hotels, logistics and budget airlines. Cho Yang-ho's widow and two daughters, as well as his son, own stakes in Hanjin Kal.

"He told us harmony among family members is of utmost importance and what we must achieve through harmony is to protect the company," CEO Cho said of his father at an annual meeting in Seoul of the International Air Transport Association.

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The late tycoon died aged 70 following chronic illness just weeks after shareholders ended his 27-year tenure on the airline's board due to perceived leadership failings.

The change at the top comes soon after a local activist fund raised its stake in Hanjin Kal to nearly 16 per cent, bringing the group's ownership structure to wider attention. The Cho family - including the late Mr Cho's 17.8 per cent stake - and its academic foundations own 29 per cent.

Mr Cho's death left his family with an inheritance tax bill of around 170 billion won (S$196.92 million), equal to about half his entire Hanjin Kal stake, some analysts estimated. CEO Cho declined to discuss the tax and management rights on Monday. REUTERS