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SoftBank's Son most closely watched Japan exec: survey

Samsung Electronics' Lee and Alibaba's Ma also tracked by Asian bosses

Masayoshi Son

TOKYO -- Masayoshi Son, chairman and CEO of SoftBank Group, is the most closely watched Japanese corporate executive, according to a survey asking business leaders from Japan, South Korea and China which executives they focus on most.

Son was followed by Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda.

In 2016, Son's telecommunications company agreed to buy British chip designer ARM Holdings for more than 3 trillion yen ($25.87 billion) and announced a plan to set up a 10 trillion yen investment fund. The high-profile moves drew strong attention not only in Japan but also in China and South Korea.

Among South Korean executives, Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman and de facto leader of Samsung Electronics, got the most votes. He drew attention for his handling of the company's smartphone-recall crisis as well as for his business gambits, including the acquisition of a U.S. autoparts manufacturer for $8 billion.

Jack Ma Yun, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group Holding, drew the most attention among his Chinese counterparts. The fact that he and Son were named reflects strong interest among their fellow executives in Internet companies.

Jack Ma Yun

Ren Zhengfei, founder and CEO of telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, was the No. 2 pick for Chinese executives among respondents in Japan and China.

Among executives outside the three Asian countries, top picks included Elon Musk, CEO of U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors; Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; and Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, which owns Google.

The survey was conducted jointly by Japan's Nikkei Inc., South Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper and Chinese daily Global Times in December.

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