Some credit family ownership for enabling fast and bold decision making while others criticize conglomerates for putting too much emphasis on clan connections, stifling innovation and maximizing profit for the family rather than shareholders.
The promotion of the younger Lee comes as Samsung's chairman faces civil lawsuits filed by his older brother and two other family members who are claiming a bigger inheritance from the estate of the Samsung founder.
The inheritance battle might prevent Lee Kun-hee from transferring shareholdings that allow control over Samsung to his son. The first court ruling is expected next year.
The promotion of Lee was part of Samsung's annual executive reshuffle. Samsung also promoted vice presidents of mobile phone operations, Lee Don-joo and Hong Won-pyo, to presidents, recognizing the company's growth in smartphones with the Galaxy brand.