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Daniel Zhang Yong, right, the chairman-in-waiting of Alibaba. Current Executive Chairman Jack Ma Yun, left, has "[been preparing] this succession plan for 10 years," he says.   © Reuters
The Big Story

When the guru steps down: tech companies face the succession question

Jack Ma has been gradually handing power to Daniel Zhang for years

YIFAN YU and CHENG TING-FANG, Nikkei staff writers | China

PALO ALTO, U.S./TAIPEI -- The task of finding a successor to the founder of a big-name American technology company has proved to be one of the most difficult management challenges in business.

Apple founder Steve Jobs was replaced twice -- once successfully, once not. Bill Gates' successor, Steve Ballmer, struggled to escape the shadow of the Microsoft founder. Other examples, notably the case of Google, have gone more smoothly.

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