[THE INVESTOR] Samsung Electronics’ Silicon Valley office is expected to play a bigger role, possibly replacing its now defunct control tower office that used to oversee strategic decisions across affiliates, according to industry sources on Nov. 23.
In a recent reshuffle, the tech giant said US-based Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center will lead business development not just for the chip business division but also for other two key pillars -- smartphone and appliance businesses. The center’s head and Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn will continue his leadership role, the company said.
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Sources say the center will play a control tower role amid a prolonged leadership vacuum at the world’s largest smartphone and memory chipmaker following the imprisonment of Samsung heir and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong and other key aides in relation to the ongoing corruption trial involving the impeached former President Park Geun-hye.
Following the heir’s imprisonment, Samsung dissolved the Future Strategy Office, the de facto control tower that was criticized for being involved in shady deals between Samsung and the president.
“Key strategic decisions, including executive reshuffle and M&A talks, have been put on hold thus far. The Silicon Valley office will play a leading role in speeding up stalled decisions,” an industry source said on condition of anonymity.
“While the US office will make strategic decisions, the Seoul headquarters will focus on executing the decisions.”
Samsung set up its US branch to beef up its then nascent chip business decades ago. The role of the regional office has evolved in line with the firm’s business expansion. The Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, an expansion of the existing US branch, was established in 2012 to accelerate Samsung’s buyout push overseas. All recent big deals ranging from LoopPay and SmartThings to VivLabs and Harman International were led by the center. Lee, the heir, also frequently visited the Silicon Valley office.
Born in Seoul, the 61-year-old Sohn studied at University of Pennsylvania and MIT Sloan School of Management. He started his career as an engineer at HP and served leadership positions at diverse chip companies such as Agilent Technologies, Quantum and Intel. He also served as an outside board member of SK hynix, then Hynix, before it was acquired by SK Group.
After leading the US$8 billion acquisition of Harman last year, he has also served as board chairman of the US audio and infotainment company.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)