After half a century at the helm, 84-year-old Kim Jae-chul has resigned as chairman of the Seoul, Korea-headquartered Dongwon Group that he founded. Leadership of the food processing, packaging, cold storage and logistics conglomerate has been turned over to his youngest son, Kim Nam-jung, who has been vice chairman since 2013.
The 45-year-old successor, who is said to among South Korea’s 50 richest people with a net worth estimated at US $1.1 billion, controls almost 70% of stock in the company that reportedly rang up US $6.15 billion in sales last year.
The retired chairman’s oldest son, Kim Nam-goo, is the chief executive at Korea Investment Holdings. It was previously owned by Dongwon Group doing business as Hanshin Securities.
“This move marks a rare case of a first-generation conglomerate founder leaving his post voluntarily, without a power transition brawl or related tax dodging allegations,” reported the Korea Herald on April 16. “The group’s affiliates will continue to operate under an independent management system and the holding company Dongwon Enterprise takes charge of overall business strategies.”
The diversified company’s origin is in the seafood industry, with its founder serving as the captain of a fishing vessel for some time before starting a canned tuna operation and launching Dongwon Industries in 1969. Twenty years and numerous expansions later, his enterprise was listed on the Korean Stock Exchange. In 2008 Dongwan acquired StarKist, an iconic tuna brand in the United States that is also engaged in the salmon and chicken business. Product distribution is in canned, pouch and frozen form.
In stepping down after 50 years on the job, the elder Kim told MBN News that the company he built stands to benefit from a new generation of leadership. He commented: “Society is changing in the direction of demanding speed. “The future of Dongwon Group is the time for younger people to take responsibility.”