founder of s korean retail giant lotte dies - Founder of S. Korean retail giant Lotte dies

SEOUL • The founder of South Korea’s sprawling retail conglomerate Lotte Group has died at the age of 97, company officials said yesterday.

Mr Shin Kyuk-ho’s reputation was tarnished in his final years when he was convicted in late 2017 of professional malpractice and embezzling from the firm to benefit his relatives.

The tycoon, who used a wheelchair, was sentenced to four years in prison but was allowed to stay out of jail on health grounds.

Born in the southern city of Ulsan, Mr Shin stowed away on a ship to Japan at the age of 18 to seek his fortune. He established Lotte to manufacture chewing gum in Tokyo soon after World War II. The business later grew to include dozens of subsidiaries in the food, retail and hotel industries.

Lotte is one of the biggest of the South Korean family-run “chaebol” conglomerates that powered the country’s decades of runaway economic growth – but which are sometimes accused of murky business practices and overly close ties with politicians.

Mr Shin’s two sons made headlines in 2015 over a bitter public fight for control of the group, each accusing the other of mismanagement, personality flaws and manipulation of their frail and aged father.

Mr Shin’s younger son Dong-bin eventually took over the reins as chairman, but both he and Mr Shin were accused of causing US$72 million (S$97 million) in damages to the group by renting out Lotte Cinema concessions at discounted rates to the founder’s eldest daughter and mistress.

The daughter was jailed for two years, while the mistress – a former model and actress 39 years Mr Shin’s junior, who came to his attention after winning a beauty pageant – was given a suspended sentence.

In his 2017 trial, Mr Shin was also found by the presiding judge to have disposed of company assets in violation of his responsibilities as chairman.

Lotte is one of the biggest of the South Korean family-run “chaebol” conglomerates that powered the country’s decades of runaway economic growth – but which are sometimes accused of murky business practices and overly close ties with politicians.

Before his death, Mr Shin had been suffering from dementia and other diseases due to old age, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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