Facing $11B tax bill, Samsung heirs donate massive art trove

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People pass by Samsung Electronics' shop in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Samsung's founding family will donate tens of thousands of rare artworks, including Picassos and Dalis, and give hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research to help them pay a massive inheritance tax following last year's death of chairman Lee Kun-Hee. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

SEOUL – Samsung’s founding family will donate tens of thousands of rare artworks, including Picassos and Dalis, to help them pay a massive inheritance tax bill following last year’s death of company chairman Lee Kun-Hee.

They will also give hundreds of millions of dollars to medical projects and research in an apparent attempt to improve their public image as they proceed with a multiyear plan to inherit both the wealth and corporate power of South Korea’s richest-ever businessman.

The Lee family, including his widow and three children, expects to pay more than 12 trillion won ($10.8 billion) in inheritance taxes, which is more than half the wealth Lee held in stocks and real estate, Samsung said Wednesday. This would be the largest amount in South Korea and more than three times the country’s total estate tax revenue for last year.

Giving away the late chairman’s vast collection of art masterpieces would reduce the taxable portions of his estate.

The family plans to divide the payment in six installments over five years, while making the first payment this month.

“It is our civic duty and responsibility to pay all taxes,” the Lee family said in a statement. They had until Friday to report the extent of the inheritance and payment plans to tax authorities.

Raising cash for the tax payment is crucial for the Lee family to extend its control over Samsung’s business empire, which extends from semiconductors, smartphones and TVs to construction, shipbuilding and insurance. Some analysts say the process could result in a shakeup across the group.

The late Lee owned 4.18% of Samsung Electronics, which is one of the world’s biggest makers of computer memory chips and smartphones, but also held stakes in Samsung affiliates that collectively owned a larger share than his in the crown jewel electronics company. The complex shareholding structure has allowed Lee and his family to exert broad control over the group.