March 25, 2019

Pulmuone founder steps down in favor of professional CEO

PUBLISHED : January 02, 2018 - 14:22

UPDATED : January 02, 2018 - 16:46

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[THE INVESTOR] The founder of Korea’s leading food firm Pulmuone announced on Jan. 2 that he is stepping down to make way for a “professional CEO” in order to better manage the company.

“Owner management can be better than professional management for unlisted companies, but listed firms should be led by professional managers,” founder Nam Seung-woo, who headed the company over the last 33 years, said in a statement.


Pulmuone founder Nam Seung-woo

He will be replaced by Lee Hyo-yul, who has been with Pulmuone from 1983, even before the firm was incorporated, as the first employee. He played a key role in the firm’s overseas push, particularly in North America where it has risen to be the top tofu maker by acquiring leading US brand Nasoya in 2016.

Pulmuone’s decision is unusual for a Korean company, especially for one listed on the benchmark KOSPI, despite what Nam said about listed firms.

The founder has been planning the move for about three years. In a shareholders meeting in March 2016, he announced his imminent departure from daily management. He will, however, continue as advisor and chairman of the board.

“It is time to challenge ourselves to achieve our 5 trillion won (US$4.70 billion) sales goal. We plan to establish a global strategy and expand our presence in Southeast Asia and Europe too,” Lee said in a separate statement.

Pulmuone currently has three overseas headquarters -- Pulmuone Japan, Pulmuone USA and Pulmuone China. The company’s 2016 sales rose for the third consecutive year, reaching 2.3 trillion won, but it posted an operating loss of 44.9 billion won.

By Song Seung-hyun (

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