Kim Woo-choong, the founder of Daewoo Group, has lost his appeal against a conviction for embezzlement and fraud, but has had his jail sentence cut.
Kim, was found guilty of charges earlier this year, but will now serve eight-and-a-half years in prison rather than 10.
The 69-year-old also had the amount he must repay reduced from 21 trillion won (£22bn; £11.7bn) to 17.9 trillion won.
At one time of the crimes, Daewoo was among South Korea’s largest firms.
The group collapsed in 1999 under debts of more than $80bn and Kim fled the country, only returning in 2005.
Prosecutors called for a longer sentence, alleging he had bribed government officials and politicians to grow his empire and get bank loans.
However, Judge Suk Ho-Chui said there was no evidence of this .
“He deserves heavy punishment as the collapse of Daewoo Group caused enormous damage to our economy, but we should consider his age, ailment, repentance and contribution to our economy,” the judge said.
“A reduced jail term is given in consideration of his pain for watching Daewoo Group’s collapse.
“Despite being a criminal, the defendant is remembered among the Korean public as an entrepreneur who raised the status of the country.”
Daewoo started out as a small textile firm, bought by Kim for $5,000 in 1967.
From this simple beginning, Kim turned Daewoo into one of South Korea’s most powerful industrial conglomerates, or “chaebols”, with close ties to other business leaders and top politicians
At its height, Daewoo employed 320,000 people in 110 countries.
But the company encountered problems in the 1990s after borrowing heavily to finance expansion.
The killer blow came with the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and the company started to crumble.