Chairman Kun-Hee Lee transformed Samsung Electronics from a peddler of low-end gadgets to a global leader in cellphones, televisions, and computer chips. The $137-billion-a-year electronics company is most often compared with Hewlett-Packard, but in many ways Samsung is the Apple of South Korea, revered in its home country for its design and innovation as well as its financial performance (profits last year climbed 65% to $14.3 billion). As a result Lee enjoys tremendous clout -- despite a corruption scandal that forced him to resign as chairman of Samsung in 2008. In December 2009, President Lee Myung-bak pardoned Lee for a tax-evasion indictment; a few months later the executive returned as chairman.
NEXT: 5. Ren Zhengfei