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The real-life billionaire families that inspired the hit series “Succession”

“Succession”, one of the most acclaimed television series of recent years, has finally come to an end.

For four seasons, viewers watched Logan Roy’s three sons fight to inherit control of the empire their father built over decades.

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The web of alliances, betrayals, runaway money and dark humor that the series’ creators managed to concoct earned “Succession” 13 Emmy Awards during its first three seasons, and it is expected to sweep the Emmys again in 2023.

Part of the success of “Succession” is related to the verisimilitude that gives it the fact that some of its plots are based on real life stories.

The creator of the series, Jessee Armstrong, never hid that he took ideas from families similar to the Roys: “We did a lot of research for ‘Succession,'” Armstrong said in a promotional interview for the series. “We think of a lot of famous media families.”

“And then, as with all creative people, you draw on a variety of relationships that you’ve had in your own life” to create a television hit, Armstrong recounted.

At BBC Mundo, we review some of the billionaire families that served as inspiration for “Succession”.

One of the main influences for the series was the conflict between Lachlan and James Murdoch over his father Rupert’s empire. (Getty Images).

The Murdochs

Since the first chapter was released, many have seen parallels between the Roy family and that of the billionaire owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch.

At 92, Murdoch has spent years trying to define which of his two sons, James or Lachlan, will be his successor at the head of the Newscorp news empire, a huge company with a presence in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, owner of brands as varied as the prestigious economic newspaper The Wall Street Journal, the english tabloid the sun and the Harper Collins publishing company.

And the battle has been so public that influential media such as The New York Timesor the magazine The New Yorkerhave published extensive reports, detailing the chaotic relationship between both brothers and their father.

The sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney was completed in 2019, for more than $70 billion.  (GETTY IMAGES).

The sale of 21st Century Fox to Disney was completed in 2019, for more than $70 billion. (GETTY IMAGES).

Specialized business media say that Fox’s multimillion-dollar sale of its film studios to Disney in 2016 was promoted by James Murdoch, against the will of his brother Lachlan, who did not want to get rid of that part of the business.

On the other hand, James has been openly critical of the editorial positions taken during the Donald Trump administration on Fox News.

His disagreement was such that in 2020 he resigned from Newscorp’s board of directors, assuring: “My resignation is due to disagreements with certain editorial content published by the company’s news media, as well as some strategic decisions.”

The Hearsts

Anne Hearst is a direct descendant of William Randolph Hearst, the most important media mogul of his day.  (GETTY IMAGES).

Anne Hearst is a direct descendant of William Randolph Hearst, the most important media mogul of his day. (GETTY IMAGES).

Another of the clear inspirations for the creators of the series was the Hearst family, which according to Forbes magazine had a fortune of US$21,000 million in 2021.

Within their current catalog they are owners of media such as the newspaper San Francisco ChronicleMagazine esquire and the television networks ESPN and A+E (in co-ownership with Disney).

The Hearst dynasty began in 1887, when William Randolph Hearst received the newspaper TI have San Francisco Daily Examiner and built it into an empire with more than 20 million readers, through the purchase of other publications under the Hearst Corporation brand.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the Hearst Corporation became the world’s largest media conglomerate, which brought it harsh criticism for using its diaries to try to influence politicians of the time.

Possibly the most famous criticism of Hearst was the 1941 film “Citizen Kane,” in which Orson Welles shows the excesses of the billionaire.

The Mercers

In the world of luxuries and excesses of “succession”, the Roys are not alone. The creators of the series took advantage of the secondary characters to include more references to famous families in the United States.

The Mercer family, for example, inspired one of the series’ families most involved in the growing world of online media.

The Mercers have financially supported the right-wing site Breitbart and Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.  (GETTY IMAGES).

The Mercers have financially supported the right-wing site Breitbart and Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. (GETTY IMAGES).

Robert Mercer is a billionaire who made his fortune through investments in the stock market, and who in recent years has dedicated himself to financing the Republican Party (he donated more than $25 million to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign).

In addition, Robert and his daughter Rebekah have direct investments in Breitbart, one of the most watched right-wing news portals in the US.

The Sulzbergers

The creators of the series did not only refer to conservative families.

Magazine Vanity Fair in 2019 he pointed out how the family that owns The New York Times, the Sulzbergers, had been the inspiration for one of the Roys’ nemesis in “Succession.”

AG Sulzberger in 2018. (GETTY IMAGES).

AG Sulzberger in 2018. (GETTY IMAGES).

The newspaper began its journey in 1878 with Adolph Ochs, and today, five generations later, it is still in the hands of the family.

AG Sulzerberger was promoted to editor-in-chief of the paper in 2016.

As in the series, in recent years the empire of New York Times It has expanded: in 2022 the company reported having increased its paid user base to 10 million.

And just like the TV series, the Times has come under fire for its editorial content, something some analysts have linked to AG Sulzberger’s role at the paper.

Like in 2020, when the editor of the newspaper’s opinion section, James Bennett, resigned after a scandal broke out in the newsroom over the publication of a column in which a senator called for military intervention to end the protests that affected the country after the death of the African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer.

Source: Elcomercio

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