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LG Group Chair Koo Bon-Moo dies, leaves company to adopted son

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Koo Bon-moo, the chairman of South Korea’s fourth largest conglomerate that was the first to adopt a transparent shareholding structure among its units died on Sunday at the age of 73.

[SEOUL] Koo Bon-moo, the chairman of South Korea’s fourth largest conglomerate that was the first to adopt a transparent shareholding structure among its units, has died. He was 73.

Mr Koo died Sunday at 9.52 am Seoul time as he did not seek extension of life after falling ill a year ago, according to LG Group in an emailed statement.

The patriarch will be succeeded by his adopted son, Koo Kwang-mo, 40, who was nominated to the board of LG Corp. on Thursday pending the approval of shareholders on June 29. Chairman Koo underwent multiple brain surgeries in recent years, Yonhap News Agency reported earlier.

He was the third generation of his family to run the conglomerate, known locally as the chaebol or “wealth clique,” after taking over the helm from his father in 1995. Mr Koo adopted the holding company structure in 2003 and the group was later divided into four smaller parts, with Koo keeping the electronics, chemical and telecommunications businesses under his helm.

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Under Mr Koo’s leadership, LG Group moved into businesses such as car batteries and energy in search for new revenue. LG Chem Ltd has grown into a leading car-battery maker, providing its products to such automakers as Ford Motor Co. and Renault SA. In 2015, LG Electronics Inc struck a deal to co-develop General Motors Co’s Bolt electric vehicle.

During the 23 years Mr Koo led the group, sales at LG Group increased more than five times to 160 trillion won($S198.9 billion) in 2017 from 30 trillion won in late 1994, even after the tech giant’s spin-offs of affiliates to GS and LS groups in early 2000s. The number of employees doubled to 210,000 in the same period.

Mr Koo was the oldest grandson of LG Group’s co-founder Koo In-hwoi, who set up Lak Hui Chemical Industrial Corp and started making cosmetics before expanding into plastics and household products such as toothpaste.

He is survived by his wife, son Kwang-mo and two daughters. The son was adopted in 2004 from the older Koo’s younger brother Koo Bon-neung, chairman of Heesung Group.

The younger Koo joined the group’s LG Electronics Inc. unit in 2006 and is currently a vice president at the information displays operations. He’s been involved in multiple businesses such as appliances, home entertainment, and group strategy, according to LG.

LG ranks as the fourth-largest among the nation’s family-run conglomerates with 123 trillion won of assets across 70 affiliates. Many of the nation’s chaebol, including Samsung Group, are undergoing a once-in-a-generation transition of power as their leaders age. But those succession plans haven’t always gone smoothly as they face increasing opposition from activist investors such as billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp.

“The funeral will be quiet and simple, like he and his family had wanted, and we’ve decided that it will not be public,” according to LG’s statement.

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