Money, Happiness — A “Succession” Retrospective

By Ashey Dube

“Money doesn’t buy happiness.” A sentiment I do not agree with generally. Why? Because it does from my perspective and the same applies for the vast majority of people. Here is why one can afford better healthcare, better education and generally a better leverage. For most people it elevates their lifestyle generally as well as affords a certain stability that comes with it. You can sprinkle in a few vacations there, drive your favorite cars, well the list is endless…

But one thing, I never took into consideration till I interacted with this very wealthy family.

The family’s wealth was in that stratosphere where they could afford and do anything in the world. Even the power to elect the president of an entire nation. This family though was far from happy, miserable at best. It had me think with that level of wealth and richness, what stops them from being happy? What was the missing ingredient I always wondered?

The Roy family was one of the most powerful families, the patriarch Logan Roy was the founder, CEO of Waystar Royco. This was one of the biggest conglomerates in the United States which controlled global media and entertainment.

Logan Roy had four children, Connor Roy a bastard son who was not interested in the family business. This cannot be said for his younger siblings, however.

Kendall Logan Roy “the number one boy” supposedly the heir apparent for the Waystar throne. And why not? He inherited his father’s name and promised by his father when he was just seven. As such Kendall was groomed for the role, and often described himself ‘as a cog built to fit one machine, that is Waystar Royco.  His social, personal life was far from perfect as Kendall was a recovering addict and was involved in an accident which led to the death of the one of the butlers who was serving at his sister’s wedding. The perks of having a powerful multi-billionaire father, is one could get away with a lot of these things without the massive repercussions a normal person would face. As such there was an air of entitlement which came to Kendall given the situation, he was raised in. His romantic relationship was far from perfect at best, separated from his wife Rava and had a distant relationship with his two kids Sofia and Iversen as well.

His sister Siobhan Roy was arguably the smartest of the lot and unlike Kendall, she was not groomed for a role in the company and had forged her way as a political advisor and was making a good name for herself advising governors and senators. She was still a major shareholder in the company and had a say in the major decisions for the company. For the day-to -day running of the firm she had a direct line via her husband Tom who was executive at ATN (one of the media companies under Way Star Royco). Their relationship was on a large basis purely transactional.

Tom was looking for a way to climb on the corporate ladder and even to take over at a certain point.

Siobhan on the other hand wanted someone out of the family loop to ‘strategize’ with and with no ability to take her for a ride, hence settling for someone who seemed beneath her.

Roman Roy was the youngest, the third son of Logan Roy. Roman, looking from outside within was not a serious person and a fact his family and colleagues constantly reminded him. It was clear even from his sitting posture, the boy could not even sit properly on a chair. I thought Roman was not comfortable in his own skin. Growing up, he grew pitted against Kendall on a number of things by their father. Being younger, Roman would become second best unsurprisingly and as a result, he went to boarding school and to military school.

There was evidence that Logan physically abused Roman as well. Roman as far as the business is concerned was more experienced than Siobhan and might be second in line to take over after Kendall.

However, Logan was not a straightforward father, he was a portrait of a toxic father. Logan at one point dangled the carrot of taking over the reins to all his children with only to take it away from them unexpectedly.

He believed in toxic competition and implemented it on his children. Connor found this competitive nature too overwhelming and as an escape decided to not compete at all to avoid conflict.

Connor still played a childish role even at an elderly age, firstly he did not work at all and constantly asked for millions of cash from his father as pocket money. This may be a consequence of growing up with Logan being absent in his life from his childhood years.

Logan mirrored Connor’s attitude by treating him with kid gloves, handing him hand-outs time and time again and even paying lip service to the idea that he may become president.

Kendall, Siobhan and Roman were all pitted against each other blurring the lines between child and employee.

Logan played mind games consistently with all three, coaxing out their desire to take over from him when he eventually decided to call it quits. Not only Logan expected them to challenge each other but also wanted them to challenge him as well to prove their worth. Even though Logan with his big ego would not allow to go down without a fight.

The father-child relationship turned into a rivalry which plunged the relationship into muddy waters.

Kendall was close to overthrowing his father. Following Logan’s reluctance to hand over Kendall the throne following his 80th birthday. Kendall staged a vote of no confidence in a shareholder meeting. But the vote went to a stalemate and as a result continuity prevailed.

Kendall in collaboration with Logan’s rival Sandy Furness as well as his college friend Stewy Hossein tried to do a hostile take-over of Waystar Royco. It made sense as the trio had massive financing, but Logan manipulated Kendall out of it by using the butler’s death in which Kendall was involved and he dropped the siege. The third time is when Logan wanted Kendall to take the fall, on the cruise line scandal, where the company was culpable for a number of misdemeanors particularly sexual assaults even after Kendall had played a great role in defending the company at congress.

Kendall flipped the script on his dad by throwing him under the bus live at a press conference.

Logan however escaped with the company getting away with a fine instead.

When it comes to Siobhan, Logan lured her away from her field in politics, by promising her the top job as well. But he switched goalposts when she had joined her at Waystar Royco, continuously testing her loyalty to him.

Roman never attempted to challenge his father and stayed by his side all the time. Unfortunately, Logan never took him seriously enough to trust him to take over.

The three siblings eventually bundled out together when their father attempted to sell the company to rising tech- guru Mattson.

This news came as a disappointment to his children as to them their father was selling their birthright.

After attempts to ‘kill’ the deal which were futile, the three siblings became their father’s direct competition. The children acquired Pierce News right under their father’s noses as they outbid him with a massive half a billion difference.

Events took an interesting turn when Logan died on his way to Sweden on a flight to conclude the sale of Waystar to Mattson.

Kendall and Roman took over as interim chief executives. This sowed a seed of doubt as Siobhan was left out. The Roy brothers were tasked to complete the deal with Lukasz Mattson as it was at an advanced stage. But the pair had other ideas and were set to cancel the deal so they could run the ‘ship’ themselves. Siobhan recognizing this, joined up with Mattson so that she can ensure the deal goes through and get the top job for her troubles.

Mattson secretly was using Siobhan as he had no plans to appoint her as CEO. Tom was his pick as he needed an attack dog, who was good at taking orders and implementing them rather than Siobhan who will be more of a partner rather than subordinates.

On discovering this, Siobhan was at crossroads whether to side with her brother Kendall or her husband Tom. She eventually voted for Tom, much to the disappointment of Kendall. Roman on the other hand had lost interest with everything associated with Waystar Royco. This may sound as a sad ending, but this begs the question I highlighted earlier on, does money really buy happiness?

I still think it does, for most of us anyway. Unlike the Roy’s we were not born in a big multi-billion family. We have so many dreams yet to accomplish, which a few green papers would make a difference…

But the Roy family gave me a different perspective to it. Did the Roy’s attain a massive amount of wealth that it ceased to be the source of their happiness? Let’s take the fate of Roman, Kendall and Siobhan’s into perspective. The three siblings walked away with around billions from the sale of Waystar Royco.

At the end of the day, Kendall looked lost and lacked purpose, while Roman wandered away similarly without purpose and still the pain of not having a proper goodbye to his father. Siobhan was still stuck in that loveless marriage with Tom, without the freedom she so much desired.

I bet some of you already have caught on but the relationship and dynamics of the Roy family on the TV Show was great to behold. It was a brilliant show with Emmy’s  to back it up and gives pertinent lessons regarding wealth, business world, impact of toxic relationships. If you haven’t caught on, this is just a tip of the iceberg and you should surely give it a watch…

29 August, 2023