Publication date May 2, 2023

The Real-Life Families That Could Have Inspired HBO’s Succession

HBO's critically acclaimed drama series, Succession, has captivated audiences with its gripping portrayal of a wealthy and powerful media family's internal struggles and power dynamics. While the show's creator, Jesse Armstrong, insists that the fictional Roy family is not based on any specific real-life family, it's hard not to draw parallels between the Roys and some of the world's most prominent business dynasties. In this article, we'll take a closer look at some of the real-life families whose stories might have influenced the creation of Succession.

HBO's Succession

Source: Rotten Tomatoes

The Murdoch Family

Perhaps the most frequently cited comparison to the Roy family is the Murdochs. Rupert Murdoch, the founder of News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, has built a massive media empire with his children playing significant roles in the business. Like the Roys, the Murdoch family has experienced its fair share of infighting, with Rupert's children, Lachlan, James, and Elisabeth, all vying for control of the family empire at various points in time. The Murdochs' influence in the media industry and their internal power struggles certainly bear a resemblance to the fictional Roy family.

The Redstone Family

Another powerful media family with striking similarities to the Roys is the Redstone family. Sumner Redstone, the late billionaire and media magnate, built an empire that included Viacom, CBS, and Paramount Pictures. Much like the Roys, the Redstone family has had its share of legal battles and boardroom drama, with Sumner's daughter, Shari Redstone, eventually taking the reins of the family business. The Redstones' story, marked by both ambition and turmoil, could easily have served as an inspiration for Succession.

The Pritzker Family

The Pritzker family, known for their vast fortune and the Hyatt Hotel empire, has also experienced its share of family drama. Over the years, the Pritzker family has faced multiple lawsuits and disputes over the division of their wealth and control of their business interests. While their primary business is in hospitality rather than media, the Pritzker family's internal conflicts and power plays could have influenced the creation of the Roy family in Succession.

The Hearst Family

The Hearst family, a media dynasty with a storied history dating back to the late 19th century, is another possible real-life inspiration for the Roy family. William Randolph Hearst, the founder of the Hearst Corporation, built a media empire that included newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. The Hearst family's immense wealth and influence in the media industry, as well as their history of family feuds and scandals, make them a prime candidate for the inspiration behind the Roys.

The Sinclair Family

Succession could also have been influenced by the Sinclair family, owners of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the biggest American television broadcasting corporations. Julian Sinclair Smith, the patriarch of the family, launched the business in 1971, and his four sons have since held a variety of managerial roles within the business. The financial success of the Sinclair family and the part played by family members in the firm are comparable to the Roy family's dynamics.

The Newhouse Family

Another well-known family that could have had an impact on the development of the Roy family is the Newhouses, who are the proprietors of Advance Publications, a media conglomerate that owns newspapers, periodicals, and cable television. The firm was started by the late Samuel Newhouse Sr., and it is now run by his two sons, Samuel Jr. and Donald. The Roy family dynamics and the Newhouse family's enormous influence in the media sector are comparable, as is the transfer of authority from the patriarch to the next generation.

The Maxwell Family

Another possible source of inspiration for Succession was the Maxwell family, which was headed by the late Robert Maxwell, a media tycoon who created a publishing empire that encompassed newspapers, magazines, and television stations. The Maxwell family's history is characterised by controversy, legal disputes, and financial difficulties, notably following Robert Maxwell's unsolved death in 1991. Aspects of the Roy family tale are echoed in the dramatic history of the family and the involvement of Robert Maxwell's children, especially his sons Kevin and Ian, in the enterprise.

The Greenberg Family

Despite not being directly involved in the media sector, the Greenberg family's history of power struggles and family strife may have had an impact on the development of the Roy family. The Greenberg family is well-known for their successful insurance company, American International Group (AIG). Jeffrey and Evan Greenberg, the two sons of Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the former CEO of AIG, both had executive roles in the business. The father-son connections, however, were rocky, and both boys eventually left AIG in a problematic situation. Succession's plot is reminiscent of the internal disputes and power struggles of the Greenberg family.

While the creators of Succession maintain that the Roy family is not directly based on any one real-life family, it's clear that there are multiple powerful and influential business dynasties that share striking similarities to the Roys. The internal conflicts, power struggles, and complex family dynamics portrayed in the series resonate with the stories of the Murdoch, Redstone, Pritzker, Hearst, and Sinclair families, among others. Which one do you think the story is based on? Let us know in the comments.

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