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GS Group Chairman Steps down for a Bold Generational Change
Huh Tae-soo Tapped as New Chairman
GS Group Chairman Steps down for a Bold Generational Change
  • By Michael Herh
  • December 4, 2019, 11:16
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Huh Chang-soo (left), outgoing chairman of GS Group, and Huh Tae-soo, vice chairman of GS Home Shopping who was tapped as new chairman

GS Group chairman Huh Chang-soo will step down from his post to become honorary chairman, and his youngest brother, Huh Tae-soo, vice chairman of GS Home Shopping, has been tapped as new chairman.

GS Group said on Dec. 3 that chairman Huh Chang-soo officially expressed his intention to step down at a meeting of presidents of GS Group affiliates. The group’s helm was handed over to Huh Tae-soo who was appointed as new chairman through a shareholder agreement.

The outgoing chairman, who has led GS Group for 15 years, resigns with almost two years of his term left. "I have finished my job of laying the foundation for GS Group’s growth into a global company,” he said. “This is an important time as the business environment is rapidly changing. We cannot waste a minute in responding to the changes. We need a new leader with a global mindset and digital innovation leadership to challenge world-class companies."

While GS Group has focused on stable management based on internal stability so far, it now needs to focus on innovation and the new chairman was chosen in this context, the group said. The new group chairman is known as a “digital evangelist,” and is expected to endeavor to transplant an IT gene in the group.

GS Group also announced a reshuffle involving 45 executives. The average age of the new group of presidents is 57 years, about three years younger than before. Huh Yun-hong, 40, vice president of GS Engineering & Construction and a son of the outgoing chairman, was promoted to GS E&C president.

Business world watchers believe that new chairman Huh Tae-soo will serve as a stepping stone in passing the group’s leadership torch to the fourth generation of the group’s owner family. Most of the fourth-generation executives, except Huh Se-hong, president of GS Caltex who was born in 1969, were born in the 1970s and 1980s. They are still too young to become a group chairman.

Experts predict four key fourth-generation players will compete for the group’s leadership: Huh Se-Hong, CEO of GS Caltex; Huh Joon-hong, vice president of GS Caltex; Huh Seo-hong, managing director of GS Energy; and Huh Yun-hong, president of GS E&C. They have already entered the race for the group’s helm.

Experts say that Huh Se-hong, a son of GS Caltex chairman Huh Dong-soo, is ahead of other candidates as he is the CEO of GS Caltex, the group’s flagship affiliate. But Huh Yun-hong narrowed the gap with Huh Se-hong by being promoted to president of GS E&C.

Huh Jun-hong, vice chairman of GS Caltex who is the eldest son of Huh Nam-gak, chairman of Samyang Tongsang, is also a strong candidate to be reckoned with. Huh Jun-hong raised his stake in GS Holdings Corp., the group’s holding company, to 2.04 percent in May by buying 80,000 shares. Samyang Tongsang, which is 22.05 percent owned by Huh Jun-hong, also bought shares of GS Holdings Corp. amounting to a 0.21 percent stake in the first half of this year.

Some observers are paying attention to Huh Seo-hong, a managing director of GS Energy and the eldest son Huh Kwang-soo, chairman of Samyang International.

In addition, Huh Yong-soo, chairman of GS Energy is also garnering much attention as a chairman candidate even though he is a third-generation executive of GS Group. This is because Huh Yong-soo has the largest stake in GS Holdings Corp. among members of the GS Group owner family.

Unlike some other business groups in Korea, however, no dispute is expected among the fourth generation of the owner family. The Huh owner family is known for holding a family meeting when deciding on important matters. Since the family is from Jinju, their hometown famous for its noblemen in the Joseon dynasty, the family sticks to a strong Confucian-style hierarchical culture. In particular, regular family meetings have reportedly evaluated the ability and work performances of the fourth generation.