Even for the de facto head of one of the world’s largest family-controlled business empires, Jay Y. Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics [fortune-stock symbol=”SSNLF”], has had a lot on his plate lately. On the same Thursday morning in early June that he breakfasted in Seoul with J.P. Morgan [fortune-stock symbol=”JPM”] CEO Jamie Dimon, for instance, Lee learned that the $26 billion New York hedge fund Elliott Management had launched a surprise attack against him. Elliott wanted to stop Lee from merging two publicly traded pieces of his family’s network of companies, potentially foiling Lee’s plan to consolidate control.

A few weeks later, on the day he turned 47, Lee gave his first-ever nationally televised speech in South Korea to offer an apology—including a symbolic bow—because the Samsung Medical Center in Seoul had failed to contain an outbreak of the deadly Middle East respiratory syndrome virus known as MERS. Not…

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