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Korean Air CEO Dies in Los Angeles

The beleaguered airline chief was recently accused of tax evasion but did much to build the airline’s profile

Korean Air chairman and chief executive, Yang Ho Cho, died today at the age of 70 at a Los Angeles hospital. An official statement as to the cause was not given, although Reuters reported his death followed a long illness.

Cho had recently been indicted on multiple charges, including embezzlement and tax evasion – charges that he denied. A recent shareholders’ vote was taken to remove Cho from the board of Korean Air following a series of scandals surrounding the chairman and his family.

Cho’s troubles eldest daughter, Heather Cho, made headlines in 2014 when she lost her temper over the way she had been served nuts in first class and ordered the Korean Air plane to return to its gate at a New York airport.

Following the board vote, Cho chose to remain chairman and keep a non-board role in the airline’s management.

Cho was highly accomplished as head of the airline. He also headed the Hanjin Group and founded the SkyTeam international airline alliance. In his role with the airline he was able to lead the bid committee that brought the 2018 Winter Olympics to Korea. He was also able to build the celebrated Wilshire Grand complex in downtown Los Angeles, now the tallest building west of the Mississippi.

He attended the University of Southern California and participated on its Board of Trustees. Under Cho’s direction and guidance, Korean Air became a global force that now flies to 124 cities and 44 countries. It takes the spot of America’s largest Asian airline with 15 North American gateways.

The untimely news comes as Korean Air prepares to launch a new non-stop route between Boston and Seoul on April 12th.

Cho had been a part of the airline’s history and development for half a century. He was named the airline’s chairman and chief executive in 1999.