SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won/Courtesy of SK Group

Chairman Chey’s grip on SK feared to weaken

Dec. 3 marked the 59th birthday of SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who has spearheaded South Korea’s third-largest conglomerate over the past 20 years.

The 59-year-old tycoon would have been happy with many presents from his family members and acquaintances except the very one from his wife Roh So-young, founder of Art Center Nabi.

On Dec. 4, Roh filed a divorce suit, demanding Chey’s stake in the group’s holding company SK Holdings, of which value is upside of $1 billion.

Chey currently holds approximately 13 million shares in SK Holdings for a stake of 18.44 percent, and Roh requested about 5.5 million shares worth 1.39 trillion won ($1.2 billion).

If Chey transfers 5.5 million shares to Roh, his stake in SK Holdings would plummet to below 11 percent. He still would be the biggest shareholder of the firm, but his control over SK Group is feared to weaken substantially.

Originally, Chey’s stake in SK Holdings was up to 23 percent with more than 16 million shares. But he gave some 3.3 million shares to his relatives late last year.

It remains to be seen whether or not Chey would accept the request of Roh, who is also a daughter of former President Roh Tae-woo.

Chey first showed his will to divorce Roh in late 2015, revealing his live-in girlfriend and an illegitimate child.

His move caused some controversies because he disclosed the facts on a year when the country’s Constitutional Court overturned a law that made adultery a crime.

Otherwise, he might have ended up in prison for the third time.

The billionaire businessman was given a three-year jail term in 2003 for his role in a $1.3 billion accounting fraud. In 2013, he was found guilty of embezzling around $40 million from SK units to cover up trading losses.

In both cases, he was granted full presidential pardons, and the second one was given midway through 2015, just months before he expressed his intention to divorce.

In 2015, Chey said that he would wrap up his relationship with Roh in a nice way.

But Roh’s request is likely to make it difficult for Chey to keep his word.

They tied the knot in 1988 and have three children.


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The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.