Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dies aged 78

Samsung Chief Lee Kun-hee has died. Credit: AP

Lee Kun-hee, the ailing Samsung Electronics chairman who transformed the small television maker into a global giant of consumer electronics, has died aged 78.

A Samsung statement said Lee died on Sunday with his family members, including his son and de facto company chief Lee Jae-yong, by his side.

Lee had been hospitalised since May 2014 after suffering a heart attack.

The Samsung statement says “all of us at Samsung will cherish his memory and are grateful for the journey we shared with him.”

Lee had been hospitalised since suffering a heart attack in 2014 Credit: Ahn Young-joon, File/AP

Lee inherited control from his father and during his nearly 30 years of leadership, Samsung Electronics Co became a global brand and the world’s largest maker of smartphones, televisions and memory chips.

Samsung sells Galaxy phones while also making the screens and microchips that power its rivals, Apple’s iPhones and Google Android phones.

It is South Korea’s largest family-controlled business conglomerate and helped make the nation’s economy Asia’s fourth-largest.

Its businesses encompass shipbuilding, life insurance, construction, hotels, amusement park operation and more.

Samsung Electronics alone accounts for 20% of the market capital on South Korea’s main stock market.

Lee leaves behind immense wealth, with Forbes estimating his fortune at $16 billion (£12.3 billion) as of January 2017.