Succession is a purposeful satire of America’s current media and political climate, so it should be no surprise that Brian Cox’s Logan Roy takes inspiration from Fox News mogul, Rupert Murdoch. The show’s writers have made it clear that no one person or family is the inspiration for their characters, “There’s loads of succession stories to draw on,” creator Jesse Armstrong told Variety. “We wanted to draw on all the good, rich stories there are about succession and about media and high politics.”
Though Succession is undoubtedly fiction, it hits close enough to the mark that as part of Murdoch’s divorce settlement, he forbade his ex-wife from feeding stories to the show’s writers. Additionally, Armstrong wrote an unproduced screenplay about the inner workings of the Murdoch family so it’s certainly possible that Armstrongs knowledge and interest in the Murdochs has slipped into Succession.
It’s also important to note that while there are similarities to Murdoch, Brian Cox has stated that Andrew Carnegie was an inspiration for his take on the character, but in terms of the greater story, Carnegie didn’t have children waiting to succeed him so again, there is no one-to-one comparison between fiction and reality in Succession.
So what are the similarities between Logan Roy and Rupert Murdoch?
Let’s start at the beginning, where one interesting similarity is that both Roy and Murdoch have foreign origins. Murdoch was born in Melbourne, Australia before moving to the U.S and gaining citizenship in 1985. Similarly, Roy was born in Scotland before moving to Quebec, then the U.S. This one of the more superficial similarities but it’s a place to start.
Both men got their start in newspapers inherited from their families from which they created their media conglomerates. Though Murdoch certainly had things easier going to Oxford University before inheriting a chain of local Australian newspapers from his father at 22. Roy instead grew up in poverty and was “raised in Quebec by an uncle with a print shop and a few advertising billboards,” according to the show.
It's Just Good Business
Both expanded their empire’s portfolio as they grew and the type of businesses they acquired are almost exactly the same: tabloids, newspapers, a movie studio, a book publisher, and TV network. Roy’s companies include the ATN news network, a Fox News stand-in, and the New York Globe, likely inspired by the New York Post, a Murdoch owned tabloid. The only real differences are that Roy owns theme parks and a cruise line.
There is even a clear visual parallel during the final season of the show in which Logan Roy makes a speech on paper boxes, something Murdoch did at the Wall Street Journal in 2007.
Given that the show is titled Succession, you would expect that a succession would come into play and it has been well documented that Rupert Murdoch has struggled to find a successor amongst his children, whom he has set against each other to compete for the job. Is this not a major element of the show?
As reported by The New York Times Magazine, Murdoch subjected his family to faux family counseling, just like Roy did in the show. Per the Times, “…Murdoch tried to manage the [family] tensions, arranging for group therapy with his children and their spouses with a counselor in London who specialized in working with dynastic families. There was even a therapeutic retreat to the Murdoch ranch in Australia. But these sessions provided just another forum for power games and manipulation.”
Both Roy and Murdoch have experienced multiple health scares though one (SPOILERS) has finally succumbed to his illnesses. Roy suffered a brain haemorrhage, a delirium inducing UTI, and finally collapsing in an aeroplane bathroom and dying. Murdoch’s health problems have been highlighted by Vanity Fair who lists Murdoch’s recent health problems as “a broken back, seizures, two bouts of pneumonia, atrial fibrillation, and a torn Achilles tendon.” Again, this is superficial as both are old men at 82 (Roy) and 92 (Murdoch) so health problems would be a natural occurrence.
This is Just a Bit of Fun!
While it’s fun to point out the similarities between the two, Succession is not a biopic on the Murdoch family and Logan Roy is only loosely based on Rupert Murdoch. There are other instances of similarity but they are a little more tenuous and there are several other families that Succession takes inspiration from including the Sulzbergers, the Redstones, and the Carnegies.