Succession fans have long been suspected that the Roy family in the HBO drama is loosely based on the Murdoch family led by News Corp founder Rupert Murdoch. But with the Succession series finale behind us — and the news today that Rupert Murdoch will hand control to his son, Lachlan Murdoch — it’s stunning just how many parallels there are between the Roys and the real-life media moguls who own Fox News.

Succession creator Jesse Armstrong has said that he didn’t base the show solely on the Murdochs, insisting that they are but one of several media families he researched while writing.

“I wrote the pilot solo, so there was a good deal of my own research and life experience in there,” Armstrong told HBO. “Then there’s the writing room, which everyone informs with their stories and backgrounds. We thought of famous media families like the Hearsts, to modern-day Redstone, John Malone, Robert Fitz of Comcast, Murdoch, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer, who founded Breitbart.

The Succession creator added: “Lots of real-life moguls. We collected a myriad of these kinds of relationships that we knew about. And then like all creative people, you raid a surprising range of relationships that you’ve known from your own life. So, lots and lots of places.”

But still, the similarities persist. As you click through the examples below, please be warned that they contain many Succession spoilers.

Logan Roy vs. Rupert Murdoch

Brian Cox in Succession. Photograph by Peter Kramer/HBO

This one is perhaps the most obvious. Logan Roy (Brian Cox) is an elderly, powerful, foreign-born white man in charge of a huge media corporation with many assets. So is Rupert Murdoch. According to Vanity Fair, Rupert Murdoch, like Logan Roy, has long hoped that one of his three children from his ex-wife Anna (Lachlan, James and Elisabeth Murdoch) would take over the business when he dies. But choosing one has proven difficult. Sounds like the plot of Succession.

“He pitted his kids against each other their entire lives. It’s sad,” a person close to the family recently told Vanity Fair.

There are also similarities between Rupert Murdoch’s many health issues and Logan’s. According to Vanity Fair, the 92-year-old News Corp. mogul had a particularly bad health scare while on board his son’s yacht and “kept almost dying.” Season 1 of Succession starts with Logan going to the hospital, close to death, and Episode 3 of Succession Season 4 infamously depicted Logan Roy dying on a plane. (The episode was called “Connor’s Wedding,” in one of the great TV misdirects of all time.)

Fox News and News Corp. vs. ATN and Waystar Royco

Matthew Mcfadyen, Dagmara Dominczyk in Succession. Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

The comparisons between the Murdoch’s corporation, News Corp., and the Roy’s corporation, Waystar Royco, are so obvious that they go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: They’re both multi-billion dollar media portfolios known for foreign-born owners and right-wing news assets.

Succession‘s Waystar-owned ATN is often compared to News Corp.-owned Fox News because both are extremely Republican-leaning and unpopular with Democrats. Remember that fiery spat with Bernie Sanders-adjacent liberal political candidate Gil Eavis at ATN on Succession? Yeah, it’s like that.

Calling Wisconsin

Nicholas Braun as Greg and Matthew Macfadyen as Tom on Succession

Succession Season 4, Episode 8, “America Decides,” featured Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfayden) making an ethically dubious to decision to have ATN declare presidential candidate  Jeryd Mencken (Justin Kirk) the winner of the presidential voting in Wisconsin — which gave him momentum to declare himself the winner of the whole enchilada.

The decision has some parallels with a decision by Fox News to call Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 election. Though Biden was ultimately declared the winner, debate continues about whether Fox News had enough information at the time to make the decision it did.

Kendall Roy vs. Lachlan Murdoch

Jeremy Strong succession Jussie Smollett
Jeremy Strong as Kendall Roy in Season 3 Episode 8 of Succession. Photo Credit: Graeme Hunter/HBO

Kendall Roy (Jeremy Strong) is the eldest son of Logan Roy (after Connor, but let’s be honest, Connor was never in consideration to succeed his dad). Lachlan Murdoch is the eldest son of Rupert Murdoch. According to Vanity Fair, Lachlan is Rupert’s “favorite” child and the one he favors to take over the empire for him. Remind you of anyone’s “number one boy”?

Even though Kendall often provoked his dad on purpose and kind of wants to destroy him, it’s pretty obvious that he desperately craved his father’s love and attention and learned that making horribly conniving business moves against him was pretty much the only way to get it.

Until Rupert Murdoch’s retirement, Lachlan was the co-chairman at News Corp. working under this father, who was executive chairman. Not sure whether Lachlan is as good at rapping as Kendall, though. Dude be the OG.

Shiv Roy vs. Elisabeth Murdoch

Sarah Snook as Shiv in Succession. Photograph by David Russell/HBO

Besides both being extremely wealthy blonde women with shrewd business sense — Shiv built her own career outside of Waystar in politics, while Elisabeth founded UK TV production company Shine Group in 2001 — the biggest similarity between Shiv and Elisabeth Murdoch may be their marriage issues. Early on the final season of Succession, it seemed that Shiv and ATN executive Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Mcfadyen) would call it quits. Of course, if you saw the final episode of the show, you know that they reached an awkward detente — and that Tom succeeded in his job far beyond anyone’s expectations.

In real life, Elisabeth Murdoch married Matthew Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud known for his PR talents, in 2001. They divorced after 13 years of marriage in 2014. Just like Tom and Logan have an awkward relationship on Succession, Freud was known to have disputes with Rupert Murdoch over both politics and personal matters.

On Succession, Tom was closer to Logan than Freud was with Murdoch, which isn’t to say they Tom and Logan were that close. Nonetheless, Logan’s death — and a whole lot of scheming and double-crossing — helped Tom rise to the top of American operations after Waystar Royco’s sale.

The Murdoch Family Succession

As of Rupert Murdoch’s retirement as chairman of News Corp. and Fox Corp, Lachlan Murdoch is the new sole chairman of News Corp. and will continue as Fox Corp.’s executive chair and CEO.

Succession kind of predicted this: When Logan Roy died on a private jet, his two sons, Kendall and Roman, took over as the co-heads of Waystar Royco. By the series finale, Kendall — who, as we noted above, has some similarities with Lachlan Murdoch — had maneuvered his way into a deal in which he would have become the sole leader of the company.

Of course, that deal soon fell apart, prompting his horrific “I’m the eldest boy!” tantrum (above).

One way real life diverges dramatically from Succession is that Rupert Murdoch stepped down on his own terms, while Logan Roy held onto his company until his sudden death. He planned to sell it and retire, but that didn’t work out as he planned.

Roman Roy vs. James Murdoch

Murdoch Succession Roman Roy
Kieran Culkin as Roman Roy in Season 4, Episode 3 of Succession. Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

There are a lot of similarities between Roman Roy and James Murdoch. Both are the younger brothers of the golden child. The Murdoch brothers, like the Roy brothers, are also often squabbling: Vanity Fair recently reported that Lachlan accused James of leaking family gossip to the Succession writers (though Lachlan denies saying that).

Vanity Fair also posits that James is much more liberal-leaning than his older brother, and that he doesn’t like Fox News. Kendall doesn’t seem to have any issues with ATN’s politics, but he is always pushing to modernize.

Also, remember how Logan always calls Roman “Romulus” as a nickname? Vanity Fair‘s Gabriel Sherman points out an incredible connection between Roman Roy and James Murdoch: James used some of his family money to launch a media fund called Lupa Systems that invests in liberal-leaning companies like Vice and Tribeca Enterprises.

Lupa is Italian for ‘she-wolf’ — like the one who raised brothers Romulus and Remus, who founded Rome, according to legend, before Romulus murdered his brother.

Umm!!! Coincidence??? I. Think. Not.

What About Connor Roy?

Justine Lupe and Alan Ruck as Connor and Willa in Succession. Photograph by David Russsell/HBO

Connor Roy (Alan Ruck) is a half-sibling of Shiv, Roman and Kendall, and the product of his father’s first marriage. Connor’s goofy antics have always kept him on the sidelines in the eyes of Logan, who has never really considered him to take over the empire.

There are some similarities there with Prudence Murdoch, who comes from Rupert’s first marriage to Patricia Booker. Prudence, like Connor, doesn’t work for the family business. (Rupert Murdoch also has two other children, Chloe and Grace Murdoch, from his third marriage to Wendi Deng. )

The Ex-Wife Amalgamation

Hiam Abbass in Succession. Photograph by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

Logan Roy’s wife Marcia (Hiam Abbass) was absent for parts of Season 4, but used Logan’s affair with Rhea Jarrell (Holly Hunter) against him in order to secure more money for her and her son. She later turned up after his death.

Marcia is Logan’s third wife, whereas in real life, Rupert Murdoch has had four wives: Patricia Booker (1956-1967), Anna Maria dePeyster (1967-1999), Wendy Deng (1999-2013), and Jerri Hall (2016-2022).

The Jerry/Gerri of It All

J. Smith-Cameron and Kieran Culkin. Photograph by Macall B. Polay/HBO

Okay, maybe this is a stretch, but it jumped out at me. Just as Rupert Murdoch dumped his wife of six years, Jerry Hall, over an email giving very vague reasons, in Episode 3 of Season 4, Logan Roy unceremoniously fires one of his most trusted executives, Gerri Kellman (J. Smith-Cameron), without warning at Connor’s wedding.

Instead of telling her himself, he goads his younger son, Roman, into doing it for him. Is it a coincidence that both of these women have the same (phonetic) name and get unceremoniously dropped after a years-long relationship in which no obvious falling out took place?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Lukas Matsson and the Gojo Deal

Alexander Skarsgård as Lukas Matsson in Succesion. Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

In Succession, tech mogul Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) sought to buy Waystar Royco and fold it into his company, Gojo, but the deal kept getting hairier and hairier as the kids start pressed him for more cash.

Matsson has been compared to Tesla CEO Elon Musk or Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, but he doesn’t have a super obvious real-life inspiration.

There are also some similarities between Logan Roy trying to sell Waystar to Gojo and Rupert Murdoch selling his movie studio, 21st Century Fox, to Bob Iger-led Disney in 2019. That deal was first announced in 2017 and took two years to close, and the Matsson deal has been very slow on the show.

According to Vanity Fair again, the Disney deal really irked eldest son Lachlan Murdoch, who had just moved back to the U.S. in order to become his father’s successor after spending 10 peaceful years in Australia away from the family business. To then find a huge, prestigious arm of his future empire ripped away was, apparently, disappointing.

Sound kind of like Kendall?

Main Image: Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin on Succession.

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in May 2023 and has been updated and republished in light of Rupert Murdoch’s retirement.

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