(Bloomberg) — Samsung Electronics Co. Executive Chairman Jay Y. Lee scored a significant victory on Monday when a Seoul court acquitted him of stock manipulation charges, putting the billionaire at a conglomerate under threat from old and new rivals. Got permission to lead.
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The acquittal eases the burden on the world’s largest maker of memory chips and displays, which is battling a global recession and stiff competition from Apple Inc in smartphones and SK Hynix Inc in the emerging field of AI. The surprise decision finally removed the threat of jail that had loomed over one of Korea’s most prominent businessmen for years.
A judge at the Seoul Central District Court handed down the verdict after hearing for about an hour, focusing on whether Lee orchestrated the 2015 merger of Samsung C&T Corp and Cheil Industries Inc to gain influence and unfair advantage. The merger was manipulated. On Monday, the judge pointed to several shortcomings in the case, including inadmissible evidence and a lack of evidence about Lee’s intentions or whether Samsung and Lee misled shareholders.
Samsung shares closed down 1.2% after the verdict was announced. An expressionless Lee left the courtroom without speaking to reporters. His lawyers said in a statement that they felt it helped resolve the controversial 2015 deal and thanked the court.
“The decision reflects economic sentiment,” said Kim Sung-soo, who teaches political science at Hanyang University in Seoul. “There are people who don’t want to put Korea’s largest company in a bind, although there will also be people who raise questions about the justice.”
Lee, 55, has been embroiled in a years-long legal struggle that has rocked the tech establishment and sparked a political scandal that led to impeachment…