Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Lee Kun Hee

Electronics is a tough business these days, thanks in part to Lee Kun Hee, chairman of South Korea's Samsung Electronics, which has stormed from obscurity to challenge Sony as the world's premier consumer-electronics company. Samsung makes more computer monitors, LCD panels and memory chips than any other firm, and is a front runner in cell-phone technology. As competitors struggled, Samsung made profits of $16 billion in the past two years.

Samsung, founded by Lee's father, was a little-known manufacturer of TVs, refrigerators and microchips. But starting in the 1990s, Lee, 63, and his team gave it a makeover. "I tell our managers we can't rest on our laurels," Lee tells TIME. The goal is "to plan a business that creates the future, rather than responding to it."

From the Archive
Samsung Moves Upmarket: Once a maker of cheapo gadgets, the Korean giant is churning out cutting-edge stuff that's cool to own