Regarding whether aikido is a business or a way, I feel it is both. I doubt this issue would have come up with AAA if there had not been some monetary issues (loss of the zen group, loss of some students, etc.). I think both can co-exist. If there was no business aspect to it in the states, aikido would not survive unless people were running schools out of their garages. Seminars are definitely not free.
That being said; yes, succession planning is tricky, even when the players are Buddhists who should transcend egos (as we did not observe). Our egos make us feel we want to be the top dog or be thought of highly by our senseis. We also have different perspectives on what our leaders teach us-just look at aikido today. If their was no difference in what top instructors saw in O'Sensei's teachings then we would be all one.
So how do we handle this? To plan or not to plan that is the question. Obviously, as pointed out, an accident could take place to take out several tiers thus disrupting the best of intentions to identify successors. However, planning would seem to me to make the possibility of a smoother transition more likely. To do otherwise submits us to the vagarities of fate-what happens happens. Plans should also not be static but adapting entities adjusting to the situations as they occur.
As top shihans cross over(Buddhist truth-we all die), the future of aikido will be left in the hands of those now working their way up the ladder. How can we prevent future problems-wait and see what happens? Or, perhaps attempting to anticipate future events and groom successors. There is still the risk the successors will not be there themselves. Succession planning attempts to identify potential several layers down. Another complicating issue is do we plan for leaders with satisfactory technical skills or do we plan with the best technical skills which may or may not have leadership abilities? It gets sticky. My point is that to not plan and let happen what may could lead to the destruction of an organization in a very short time due to infighting and politics. The grooming of successors could be a starting point.