HBO’s ‘Succession’ Planning Lessons for Family Businesses

HBO recently wrapped season two of the hit show Succession, which follows the declining health of billion-dollar media mogul Logan Roy. With four children in the running to become the next CEO of the family business, the Roy patriarch has some tough decisions to make. Finding a candidate that satisfies the needs of the business is a crucial goal, yet many factors make that choice complicated. Although the show amps up the drama and deceit, the Succession family struggle is a relatable problem for any business owner preparing for a change in leadership.

Roy’s children possess different qualifications and personalities that are put to the test as the family business faces ongoing challenges. Kendall is power hungry, Roman is the family slacker, Shiv is a political strategist, and Connor, the only half-sibling, is a philanthropist but spends the least amount of time with the family. Each potential successor experiences failures and successes throughout the show, which ultimately leaves viewers to question whether any of the Roys are the right choice for the job.

As seen in Succession, the biggest problem for many businesses is not having a clearly articulated plan in place. Failing to prepare for an exit can create problems and cause damaging uncertainty with investors. This is a problem Roy faces when the initial news of his sickness becomes public knowledge, and an attempted coup and hostile takeover are staged. Months without clear leadership for any company can produce political minefields, with key personnel jockeying for positions in the senior ranks (or family turmoil in the Roys’ case).

Family businesses in particular already experience tension over money, so avoiding surprises will help keep personal and professional relationships intact. Ultimately, a business owner will have to assess all their options, blood related or not, to make the best decision for the legacy they worked so hard to build. Although choosing a successor is hard, individuals should start thinking about a plan from the moment they step into a role. Being as upfront and honest as possible will help avoid unnecessary drama and create a smooth transition for all stakeholders.

Proper business planning is a complex and ongoing effort, requiring expert counsel—a professional with knowledge and experience, familiar with the challenges that characterize an entrepreneur’s business ventures. Talley LLP shares the same entrepreneurial spirit that has helped propel our clients to their current level of success. With over 25 years’ experience in helping high net worth individuals and business owners, Talley has the expertise necessary to assist entrepreneurs throughout their entire journey, from formation through succession.