Who’s the real-life family the Roys are based on in ‘Succession’?

Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in “Succession,” Season 4.
Sarah Snook, Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in “Succession,” Season 4. | Claudette Barius, HBO

I grew up in a close-knit family. My small family of four (two parents, one brother, one dog, innumerable gerbils) has had its ups and downs. There was the time my brother strategically splattered toothpaste all over our bathroom and framed me as the culprit. While my parents have since conceded that I was blameless, I have never forgotten. I will never forgive.

Whatever problems my family may have, they’re small potatoes in comparison to the chaotic and vicious family portrayed in “Succession.” Every time I tune in to the show on Sundays, I think to myself, “OK sure, my family can be annoying. But they’d never do that.

This sentiment seems even more true in light of the twisty, deliciously devastating “Succession” series finale that aired this past Sunday.

“Succession” is HBO’s smash-hit series — it premiered in 2018 and has been wildly popular ever since, sprouting both intense discourse and hilarious memes alike. The show has just ended its fourth and final season — and was nominated for a whopping 27 Emmys this year — which proved to be packed with just as many clever quips and back-stabbing twists as the last three.

What is ‘Succession’ about?

“Succession” chronicles the ups and downs (and there are many, many downs) of the fictional Roy family. Patriarch Logan Roy heads a massive, fictional media conglomerate called Waystar Royco and his four children have various roles within the company.

(Spoilers ahead!)

Logan is in the throes of old age and suffers health problems expected for his age: in the pilot episode, Logan suffers an unexpected stroke. This is the catalyst that begins his four children’s — Kendall, Roman, Shiv and Connor (to a lesser extent) — fight for Logan’s throne.

There are other key players in this bid for power, including Greg, a cousin of the Roys who often dim-wittedly utters some of the best lines of the show (“If it is to be said, so it be, so it is” is my personal favorite). There’s also Tom Wambsgans (played by Matthew Macfayden, best known as Mr. Darcy in 2005’s “Pride & Prejudice”), Shiv’s husband who manages to be both power-hungry and spineless at the same time.


“Succession” at times feels like a parody, and at others a Shakespearean drama akin to “King Lear.” At one moment, the Roy children will comedically bicker with each other like normal siblings. In the next, they’ll make calculated and cutthroat decisions to cut each other, and their father, out of the business.

The Roys throw around millions of dollars like change. They willingly and gladly stab each other in the back. They dole out clever and cutting personal insults. I cannot stress this enough: the Roys are not likable people. In their ruthless game, there’s only one winner and everyone’s a loser — even whoever comes out on top.

What’s ‘Succession’ rated and why?

Common Sense Media says that “Succession” is best for those 16 and up, but I’d argue that it’s for adults only. According to IMDb, the show has:

  • Moderate sex and nudity.

  • Strong sexual references.

  • Severe profanity.

  • Moderate smoking, alcohol and drug use.

  • Mild violence and gore.

Beyond the adult content, “Succession” has themes that you might not want to expose kids to. If you’re looking for a portrayal of a dysfunctional but loving family, the Roys are not it.

What is ‘Succession’ based on?

Whether or not you plan on watching “Succession,” one of the most interesting — and perhaps alarming — things about the show is that it might be based on a real-life family.

What family is ‘Succession’ based on?

The creators of “Succession” drew inspiration from multiple real-life families. According to showrunner Jesse Armstrong, “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. Lots of real-life moguls.”

But according to CNN, the Roys in “Succession” are most likely based on the Murdoch family, “the family of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch.” Much like Logan, Murdoch has “always intended to pass down his company to one of his children,” but “has never named a successor” to his media conglomerate, News Corp.

It’s worth noting that Armstrong insists that the Roys are based on “no one family,” per Deadline. However, according to Armstrong, the Murdochs are “deeply in the background” of “Succession.”

Interestingly enough, after the shocking series finale of “Succession” earlier this year, the Murdochs have found themselves once again in the news.

The Roys vs. The Murdochs

As mentioned before, the Murdochs, much like the Roys, are led by a powerful and older patriarch. Rupert Murdoch, 92, has recently stepped down from Fox and News Corp, as reported by the Deseret News. According to a statement released by the company, Murdoch is passing off his company off to his son, Lachlan.


Murdoch has six children total, and four of them have been in and out of various positions in News Corp. through the years, per CNN.

Prudence MacLeod

Rupert Murdoch has multiple children from four marriages. His oldest, Prudence MacLeod, has strong similarities to Connor Roy — like Connor, MacLeod reportedly has no interest in the family business, per CNN.

Lachlan Murdoch

Next up is Lachlan Murdoch, who could be compared to Kendall. Lachlan Murdoch, born in 1971 and raised in New York, per People, became chairman and chief executive of News Ltd. in 1997, per CNN.

At the time, Rupert Murdoch named his son as “his heir apparent,” calling him “the first among equals.” But in 2005, Lachlan Murdoch quit after a disagreement with Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes about the news channel’s direction. He started his own firm in Australia, Illyria, “which invested in failing radio stations and revived them,” per People.

Lachlan Murdoch eventually returned to the family business in 2014, coming in as as the “non-executive co-chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox” which “(placed) him near the top of the companies as part of succession planning for the media empire,” according to Bloomberg.

As mentioned earlier, Lachlan will take the reigns of Fox and News Corp from his father. As Jennifer Graham wrote for the Deseret News, “... Lachlan Murdoch does seem to share his father’s ideological bent — so much so that some liberals are hyperventilating over the idea of Lachlan Murdoch being in control.”

James Murdoch

While Lachlan Murdoch was running Illyria, Rupert Murdoch’s youngest son, James Murdoch, stepped in at News Corp. as the “new heir apparent” in 2005, according to CNN. Previously, James Murdoch had dropped out of Harvard in 1995 and started a hip-hop label, Rawkus Records, per People.

It’s worth mentioning that Eminem was signed to James Murdoch’s music label. The company was bought by News Corp. in 1998, per BBC.

James Murdoch stepped down from News Corp. in 2005 after a phone hacking scandal, per CNN. While he rejoined in 2014, he eventually resigned in 2020, seemingly for good — in a statement at the time, he said he left due to “disagreements over certain editorial content published.”

According to CNN, “The younger Murdoch repeatedly clashed with his father and brother’s conservative political views, occasionally even in public.” James Murdoch reportedly stayed on the News Corp. board to test “the proposition of making change from the inside,” but his efforts were seemingly futile.

James Murdoch might be easily compared to youngest Roy child Roman Roy. Much like Roman, James Murdoch seemed to have a wild side — BBC called him “something of a rebel” in 2003.

Elisabeth Murdoch

Elisabeth Murdoch, the only daughter from Rupert Murdoch’s second marriage, is reportedly “savvy” and “cunning,” per CNN. “She is perhaps the most like Rupert,” New York Times writer Jim Rutenberg said in the CNN series “The Murdochs: Empire of Influence.”

According to “Sky High” author Mathew Horsman, Rupert Murdoch never took her stabs at the News Corp. throne seriously, “saying she needs to figure out how many children she wanted to have before planning further advancement at the company,” per CNN.

Despite her father’s alleged misgivings, Elisabeth Murdoch has been successful on her own. According to CNN, she left News Corp. in 2000 to found one of the biggest production companies in the U.K. Her company, called Shine, has produced incredibly popular shows like “The Biggest Loser” and “MasterChef,” per People.

The other Murdoch children

Rupert Murdoch has two other children with his third wife Wendi Deng, according to People: Grace Murdoch, who currently attends Yale, and Chloe Murdoch, who is attending Stanford.

Waystar Royco vs. News Corp.

Another big similarity between the Roys and the Murdochs? Their encompassing media conglomerates. The Roys head the fictional Waystar Royco, “which the Roys like to boast is the fifth-largest media company in the world,” according to Vanity Fair.

Waystar Royco shares a strong likeness to News Corp. In the world of “Succession,” Waystar Royco “controls a Fox News-esque conservative cable network called ATN; several newspapers; and a theme park and cruise ship business,” per Vanity Fair.

News Corp., on the other hand, had most famously controlled Fox Corp. before splitting nearly 10 years ago, per The New York Times. There was word of a potential re-merger between the two companies, before it was announced that Rupert Murdoch withdrew his bid earlier this year, according to CNBC.

News Corp. has its hands in other businesses that “reach as far as the U.K. and Australia” and include, according to Vanity Fair, “broadcast and cable networks, a film and television studio, a live entertainment division, and an Indian television provider.”

Much like Waystar Royco, News Corp. had undergone its fair share of scandal: in 2011, News of the World, a newspaper owned by News Corp., underwent a “hacking scandal,” according to CNN. “... it was discovered reporters were hacking the phones of royals, celebrities and crime victims to get their stories,” per CNN.

Much like in “Succession,” Rupert Murdoch testified before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee with his son James. This is “like a mirror image of the show,” according to CNN. In Season 2 of “Succession,” Logan and Roy testify in front of a U.S. Senate subcommittee about allegations of sexual assault, harassment and even murder that had been buried internally.

Also similarly to “Succession,” Rupert Murdoch made a surprising business move. In 2018, he sold off most of 21st Century Fox to Disney, according to CNN. In the Season 3 finale of “Succession,” Logan makes a similarly surprising announcement: that he’d be selling Waystar Royco to fictional streaming company GoJo, giving founder Lukas Matsson control of Waystar in the process.

Is ‘Succession’ on HBO worth watching?

Honestly, who am I to say? Is anything really worth watching? On one hand, “Succession” is incredibly well-written and may have had some of the best jokes on TV (the way Tom curb-stomped the huge purse Greg’s date wore in the first episode of Season 4 has understandably taken Twitter by storm).

On the other hand, it’s about a family of terrible people doing terrible things to each other for more money and more power. To put it lightly, “Succession” isn’t exactly a feel-good TV show.

At the very least, “Succession” is worth knowing about — so you can at least sound like you know what you’re talking about the next time your coworkers bring it up.