Samsung’s fight against a hedge fund turns ugly with antisemitic remarks

Paul Singer says no sweat.
Paul Singer says no sweat.
Image: CNBC/Heidi Gutman
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When activist investors go after big, global companies, things often get nasty. But a fight centered around one of the world’s largest tech companies seems to have gone too far.

At issue is the proposed merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries—a construction company and a textile firm that are both owned by Korea’s Samsung Group—that would allow Samsung’s founding family to tighten its grip over the global giant.

New York hedge fund Elliott Management, run by billionaire activist investor Paul Singer, thinks the merger of the two subsidiaries is bad for shareholders, arguing the sweetheart deal to Samsung’s founding family (which owns large stakes in the subsidiaries) doesn’t benefit the rest of its stockholders. (Singer’s fund owns a 7% stake in Samsung C&T.)

Other big investors have put their weight behind Singer. But the public fight, which has been played out in court and splashed across Korean media, has morphed into an anti-semitic attack on Singer, who is Jewish.

“Jews are known to wield enormous power on Wall Street and in global financial circles,” wrote Kim Ji-ho on Korean business news site, which contained numerous advertisements for Samsung placed next to the story. “Jewish money has long been known to be ruthless and merciless.”

Samsung C&T also published a number of cartoons on its website depicting Singer as a character called “Vulture Man,” who was “viciously exploiting children and poor people,” according to The Observer.

The cartoons, as well as the MediaPen story, were later removed after Jewish organizations called on Samsung and South Korea’s government to do something about the antisemitic stereotypes. A Samsung spokesman issued a statement denouncing antisemitism.

For his part, Singer told a crowd at the Delivering Alpha finance industry conference Wednesday (July 15) it was  ”a shame anti-semitism crept into a business dispute” but that he didn’t think Korean people were anti-semitic. He said he’s invested in Korea for 20 years and thinks the country is poised for growth.