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ImageLee Kun-hee, Samsung

In one of the most sensational and controversial exits of the year, Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee, resigned following an indictment on tax evasion charges after a counsel investigation.

Known to be the most powerful Korean tycoon, Lee was charged with $133m tax evasion and breach of trust during his 20-year tenure at Samsung. Lee was also charged with damaging the interest of other shareholders. He was accused of forcing Samsung subsidiaries to sell shares to his son at unfairly low prices.

However, the company was cleared of the most serious allegation that it raised money to bribe influential citizens and ministers in its native South Korea.

Joining Lee in stepping down were Vice Chairman Lee Hak-soo and Lee Jae-yong, the chairman's son and heir apparent to the Samsung throne. Nine other senior executives also left Samsung following the charges.

Sixty six-year old Lee is credited of having built $160-billion Samsung Group which is Korea Inc's pride, accounting for roughly 21 per cent of the country's total exports.