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Succession Part 2: Don’t Mistake Wealth for Legacy

Read our first blog post in a series examining HBO’s “Succession” through the lens of Chairman Robert Balentine and CEO Adrian Cronje’s book, First Generation Wealth.

Like many first-generation wealth creators, Logan Roy came to America as an immigrant, dreaming of how he could create a better future for himself and his offspring. Decades later, he is the CEO of a media conglomerate worth hundreds of billions of dollars and has amassed an almost-incomprehensible level of personal wealth.

In season two, the media accuses the Roy family of harboring a culture of sexual harassment on Waystar cruise lines. Shareholders view Logan as ultimately responsible for this culture and pressure him to resign. Logan refuses to step down. Instead, he gathers his children and some key Waystar employees on the luxurious Roy yacht to decide which family member will take responsibility, sacrificing themselves for the good of the company.

Mistaking Wealth for Legacy

By nature, entrepreneurs are driven. They use their ingenuity to create successful businesses and often monitor their progress in what can easily be measured: dollars. However, Adrian and Robert note that, at the end of their lives, wealth creators who use dollars as their only metric may find themselves with “a sense of hollowness or emptiness, a sense of wondering, “What’s it all for, anyway?” In our work with entrepreneurs, and in our own experience, we believe that true meaning and purpose come from measuring what matters, which we can do once we define something deeper: legacy.

To us, legacy is what resonates after you’re no longer here. It is the bridge between your past and your family’s future. – Robert and Adrian

We know that Logan intends to pass Waystar to his children one day. When he decides to scapegoat one of his children for his own actions, Logan is weighing short-term benefit over long-term damage. Though he will keep his own wealth and status in the short term, the life of one of his children will be damaged long term. The scapegoat will lose their job at Waystar, their reputation as a businessperson, and potentially their freedom, as jail is a distinct possibility.

He also risks alienating his other children; after all, how can they trust he will not treat them the same way one day? Logan’s decision reveals a focus on building wealth, rather than building a legacy. When Logan is no longer alive, his children will remember that he allowed one of them to be punished for a scandal that was his responsibility.

Creating a Legacy

Logan Roy is successful when measuring progress through dollars; however, not taking the long-term view of legacy into consideration will impact how he is remembered by future generations. Though he has not intentionally shaped his legacy, it is not too late to start defining the values and attitudes he would like to outlive them.

Logan could start by asking himself how he’d like to be remembered by his children. Generous? Encouraging? Humble? Then he could go a step further and identify actions that match the values important to him.

For example, if humility was important to him, he could create a tradition of giving to others. Perhaps on Thanksgiving, he and his children could serve lunch to homeless people without a family dinner to attend. This would instill in them the importance of giving back to their community and spark gratitude for their own privilege and wealth.

Then, Logan could codify some of these values in legacy documents. Robert and Adrian advise starting with a mission, vision, and values statement. Like a company’s statement, this shows where you want to be in the future, how you’ll get there, and the values that will guide your decision-making.

His children would always carry their memories of volunteering alongside their father, and they would have a written document outlining his values to guide them forward in being stewards of wealth. Thus, Logan’s actions within his own family would blossom to leave a positive imprint on the world.

Conclusion

Though Logan Roy intends to pass Waystar to his children one day, his focus on wealth, and not legacy, has made some of his decisions short-sighted. At the close of season two, he chooses to preserve his wealth and power at the expense of the freedom of one of his children. This leaves viewers wondering: what is the overall point of wealth? What type of legacy will this portend? Logan’s lack of consideration of his legacy means that he is not shaping it intentionally. However, he has the opportunity to shape his legacy by thinking about the values he’d like to instill in his children, figuring out ways to ritualize those values in their lives, and then writing them down in legacy documents that will outlive him.

Sometimes what’s best for the family business isn’t what’s best for the family. Be sure and read our final article in the three-part series, in which we discuss the pitfalls of the Roy family’s relationship with Waystar and identify do’s and don’ts for avoiding their mistakes.

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“Succession” details situations that may be familiar to wealth creators, though perhaps not quite on the same scale. We’ve spent more than thirty-five years advising entrepreneurs like Logan Roy on navigating questions surrounding wealth and legacy. If you’d like more information, we hope you will visit https://www.firstgenerationalwealth.com, where you can learn more about the steps you can take to ensure enduring wealth and a long-lasting legacy.

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