May 25, 2023
It's the end of the line for HBO's hit series "Succession," which chronicles the battle for control of a wealthy family's media conglomerate. The final episode, which airs Sunday, promises to tie up loose ends and determine which member of the Roy family, if any, will take the reins at the company.
When the show began, viewers were introduced to the Roy family just in time for Logan Roy's 80th birthday. The business magnate, who is loosely based on Rupert Murdoch, is the founder and CEO of Waystar Royco, a media empire that has become one of the biggest forces in TV, news and entertainment. As he prepares to retire and make way for his son, Kendall Roy, to assume the role of CEO, he changes his mind and decides not to step down.
Over the course of four seasons, Kendall and his siblings — Roman, Shiv and Connor — each have the chance to prove their worth to their father by taking high positions at the company or, in some cases, conspiring to destroy him. They are often joined by their cousin, Greg Hirsch, as well as Shiv's husband, Tom Wambsgans, all deceiving one another and keeping secrets in the hopes of becoming the next leader.
As the show prepares for its final episode, a lot of questions are left unanswered. Logan, who did not determine which member of his family should succeed him, dies suddenly and leaves the children scrambling. Meanwhile, Waystar Royco is in the midst of a deal to be purchased by GoJo, a tech company helmed by billionaire Lukas Matsson.
Cindy Axelrod, a professor of finance at Temple University and avid "Succession" viewer, has her series finale predictions ready. Axelrod, who has worked at the Fox School of Business for more than 10 years, spent 25 years working on the money management side of the investment industry, taking jobs at firms like BlackRock, PNC and Glenmede Trust, before entering academia.
"People that are self-made, rather than born into wealth, view wealth differently and view risk very differently," Axelrod said. "Logan is more or less self-made. He created his empire and built upon it, while his children were born into it and know nothing more than being wealthy. Logan tends to look at business decisions differently and evaluates things. The one bummer of the show is that Logan started his succession plan but never finished it. He leaves behind a piece of paper that says he thinks it should be Kendall, but he isn't sure."
Check out Axelrod's thoughts about each potential CEO ahead of the "Succession" series finale, which airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO and Max. (Those who haven't used Warner Bros. Discovery's streaming platform since the company transitioned from HBO Max to Max should make sure their log-in credentials are good to go before the finale begins.)
"My first choice would be Kendall, but he has a couple of really bad skeletons in his closet," Axelrod said. "One of them is drug addiction and the other is that he murdered somebody. That's not the kind of stuff that a CEO is made of. I think he has the skill set to do it, absolutely, but those two things are pretty bad and knock him out of the running."
While Kendall was meant to succeed his father at the beginning of "Succession," Logan's doubts about his abilities plague much of his son's development through the series. After a short stint as CEO while his father was in the hospital, Kendall spends a lot of his time conspiring to get revenge on Logan, trying to show people that he is past his prime. But Kendall's own past, especially the memory of committing vehicular manslaughter during his sister's wedding, keeps coming back to haunt him.
Following Logan's death at the beginning of the final season, Kendall and his younger brother, Roman, are named co-CEOs as the company braces for a battle over its future.
"Roman is the classical wealthy playboy. He loves being wealthy and loves all the trappings of it, but he also doesn't have a lot of business sense," Axelrod said. "He's got good instincts, I think, but he's done some inappropriate stuff, especially with general counsel, Gerri Kellman. He had an affair with her and there are some inappropriate photos of Roman that are out there. I don't think he has the business sense that he needs in order to take control."
While Roman has a reputation for flaunting his wealth and not thinking through his decisions, he spends much of his time trying to keep his family united and support his father and siblings, even as they battle among themselves. Roman's siblings sometimes joke about Roman's history with his father, who abused him as a child, though Roman remains loyal to Logan even after his death.
As a way to form an allyship at Waystar, Roman teams up with Kellman and the two have an emotional, inappropriate affair. Later in the series, Kellman deceives Roman and, in return, he fires her just before Logan passes away.
"I really want to say that Shiv is the one to do it," Axelrod said. "I want to say that because, being a woman in the financial industry, we're a rare breed. It's a man's world, it's tough and I like Shiv. I like how she thinks on her feet. She's got some business experience from the political world but she knows how to deal with crises and how to spin things. I think she's business savvy, but she's somewhat manipulative and is only looking out for herself. She doesn't play nice in the sandbox with others, but if you pushed me to choose, I'd say that Shiv has the best chance of doing it."
Shiv, Logan's only daughter, spends a portion of the series battling with Kendall in the hopes of becoming CEO, which was promised to her as well as to her older brother. While Logan later doubts her ability to do the job, she often breaks away from her siblings to consider the best business options for herself, even secretly teaming up with Mattson in the hopes of being named CEO.
Shiv is often accompanied by her husband, Tom, who she brought into the family business in the early days of their relationship. By the end of the series, their marriage is nearly over, with the estranged couple constantly arguing as they fight to survive the deal with Mattson's company.
"Another easy one to knock out of the running is the oldest son, Connor. Connor has political aspirations, though I'm not sure what makes him politically qualified," Axelrod said. "I think the show is trying to draw some sort of parallel, although a weak one, to Trump, in the sense that he's a wealthy man but not a wealthy businessman. Connor doesn't have any chance whatsoever because he has zero business experience, never showed any interest in the family business and just doesn't have what it takes."
Connor is the oldest Roy sibling, though he is often ignored because he is uninterested in Waystar Royco and has a different mother from the rest of the siblings. Instead, Connor focuses his efforts on a campaign for president, failing to gain more than 1% of votes despite spending much of his wealth on the effort.
He is often ignored by his siblings despite hints that he served as a father figure to them while their father was building Waystar. He is not considered a serious candidate for CEO and does not play a role in the family business. Still, he is focused on proving himself to his father through his other professional pursuits. After Logan dies, Connor purchases his New York City penthouse and plans the funeral despite not being permitted to deliver a eulogy.
"Greg, Logan's nephew, is interesting but he's essentially just a puppet," Axelrod said. "He comes into the business because his grandfather is Logan's brother. Greg, too, has zero business experience. He's basically just Tom's yes-man. I think he'd like to do it, but I don't think he has the brains to do it."
Greg is the grandson of Logan's estranged brother, Ewan. He asks Logan for a job at the company and is eventually taken under the wing of Tom, who pressures Greg into making unethical business decisions, destroying evidence of wrongdoing and changing his habits to fit in with his newfound wealth.
Over the course of the series, Greg transforms from a middle class outsider to a rich, part-time member of the Roy family. While he considers himself to be an important member of the family, he is often ignored by the siblings, who believe he is only out for money.
"I think Tom could do it. That's a big wild card there," Axelrod said. "In the last few episodes, we're really starting to see that Tom might have what it takes. That's definitely a possibility. If you look at the non-family members, like Greg, it's going to be brutal given that the three siblings are actively fighting one another to take control. How they'd ever let Tom do it, given he has no stock ownership, is beyond me. His marriage with Shiv is on the rocks, but I think he may have the skill set to do it."
Tom, Shiv's husband, is introduced as a shy, timid man who is eager for Logan's acceptance. He remains this way for much of the series, though he spends a lot of his time harassing Greg and convincing him to do the harder parts of his own job. Once his marriage to Shiv begins to crumble, Tom becomes close to Logan, though he is unliked by most of the other members of the family.
It remains unclear who will take control of Waystar Royco, though Axelrod believes the ideal situation would be for the family to sell the company, pocket the profits and move on with their lives. Whether that comes in the form of selling to Mattson, another rival CEO or selling off pieces of the empire, she's not sure. As a viewer, she's excited to find out.