48 Lee Ki-woo
PRESIDENT AND CEO
Grand Korea Leisure
CLAIMS TO FAME
• Runs one of Korea’s leading operators of foreigners-only casinos
• Previously served at the Korean Consulate General in Canada and the Korean Embassy in the US
POWER SCORE 560 LAST YEAR 48
Exactly what the future holds for the government-affiliated Grand Korea Leisure (GKL) is open to debate, but there is no doubt the wind has been knocked out of its sails over the past two years.
A subsidiary of the Korea National Tourism Organization, GKL was established in 2005 to promote tourism and raise funds, opening a number of foreigners-only casinos under its Seven Luck brand. For the most part the plan has worked, with GKL one of two companies – alongside Paradise Group – to dominate market share with around 90% between them.
But cracks began to appear in 2015 when six GKL employees were arrested in China for allegedly marketing the company’s casino operations to Chinese gamblers. While Paradise was also caught up in the scandal, the fact that GKL has government ties didn’t sit well with their primary market.
How much this impacted the company’s decision not to bid for one of two new licenses issued last year for integrated resorts in Incheon is unknown.
It does, however, suggest its gaming ambitions are limited. For Lee Ki-woo, who took over from Lim Byoung-soo as GKL’s President and CEO shortly after the 2015 arrests, his time in the top job has been anything but smooth. And if he had hoped for a better run in 2017, the THAAD missile crisis quickly put paid to that with GKL’s revenue by the middle of the year declining 11.5% and profit 37% on 2016 numbers.
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