As audiences recover from the sudden demise of Succession’s Logan Roy, CHRISTOPHER STEVENS bids farewell to the foul-mouthed tyrant whose life (and death) were so explosively dramatic you couldn’t make it up!
The secret of media mogul Logan Roy’s global dominance, he once revealed, was simple psychology. ‘Don’t tell me about people. I didn’t make human nature, but I do know what they read and what they watch,’ he said. ‘I’d go flat broke in a week if I didn’t.’
The Scottish-born multi-billionaire tycoon, who died aboard his private jet on Sunday from a suspected heart attack, aged 84, transformed the way we get the news.
Part of a triumvirate of media magnates in the 1980s and 1990s — alongside Rupert Murdoch and Robert Maxwell — Roy treated current affairs as entertainment first, information second and never as a moral crusade.
‘People come to us,’ he proclaimed of his American news channel, ATN, ‘because we don’t sell them on anything. No packet of f***ing bleeding heart, United Nations, Volvo, gender-bending horse****.’
The tone of this uncompromising statement captures both Roy’s business ethic and his notoriously foul-mouthed personal style.
Farewell: The Scottish-born multi-billionaire tycoon Logan Roy died aboard his private jet on Sunday from a suspected heart attack, aged 84, and transformed the way we get the news
Succession stars: Left to right, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Logan Roy (Brian Cox), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Connor (Alan Ruck)
Executives at Waystar Royco who encountered their boss even in his milder moods routinely expected to be battered by the F-word — often used as a noun, a verb and an adjective in the same sentence.
Phone calls, board meetings and Press interviews frequently ended with a brutal dismissal: ‘F*** off!’
To the founder and CEO of Waystar Royco, business success was everything. It should be no surprise that he died on the day of his eldest son Connor’s wedding: the media giant had given the ceremony a miss in favour of a trip to Sweden to seal a deal with rival entrepreneur Lukas Mattson, head of tech giant GoJo.
In recent months, Roy had become estranged from all his children: Connor, would-be presidential candidate; Kendall, a recovering addict; Siobhan, known as ‘Shiv’, a former political consultant; and Roman, Waystar Royco’s COO.
Some observers saw the GoJo deal as an act of sheer spite, as it would ensure none of them inherited the company. However, as major shareholders, all four were expected to pocket billions if the takeover went ahead.
Roy himself spun the break-up of his business empire as proof that his appetite for journalism was as keen as ever: during a surprise appearance on the studio floor at ATN last month, he stood on a stage made from boxes of printer paper to deliver a rousing speech.
‘This is not the end,’ he vowed. ‘I’m going to build something better. Something faster, lighter, meaner, wilder. Anyone who believes that I’m getting out, please, shove the bunting up your a**.’
ATN has become notorious for its provocative ‘chyrons’ or tickertape running along the bottom of the screen, capable of producing outrage and belly-laughs at the same time. ‘China hack could see 40 million Americans entombed in their electric cars,’ read a typical teaser earlier this month.
Logan: The third episode of the final season of Succession proved to be the most explosive yet, as a shock death just before a family weddding rocks the Roys
Roy’s intensified wheeler-dealing was not the mere bluster of an old man. It was life-or-death defiance. For the past five years, he had battled serious illness, a series of attempted coups and a corporate sex scandal that threatened at one point to see both him and his son Kendall — seen as his father’s most likely successor until they fell out — jailed for mishandling evidence.
Few outside his close family (perhaps only vice-chairman Frank Vernon and chief in-house lawyer Gerri Kellman, who had spent decades beside him) knew how gravely ill he was in 2018 following a stroke.
He fought back from that, only to face horrendous allegations over sex parties on cruise ships run by his leisure company, Brightstar.
Widely rumoured reports claimed women on the ships were raped and murdered and their bodies dumped overboard. The Roy family have denied knowledge of any illegal behaviour.
Off-the-record briefings laid the blame on former head of cruises Lester McClintock, who died in 2018. His reputation as a predator was so well known that colleagues knew him as Mo — ‘Mo-Lester’.
At a congressional hearing last year, Logan Roy said: ‘Senators, when I read of the abuses of power alleged in my cruise division, well… that was the worst day of my life. To think bad things might have gone on without my knowledge. And frankly, I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive myself.’
His contrition won him a reprieve. But it came even as his iron grip on his family was faltering, with estrangement from his third wife Marcia, and a public denunciation by Kendall during a live TV Press conference following the cruise debacle. ‘My father is a malignant presence, a bully and a liar,’ he declared.
These blows wounded Roy more deeply than any legal or political attacks. Throughout his career, the quality he prized above all was loyalty. ‘If we’re good, we’re good,’ was a favourite comment to family and employees alike — meaning, perhaps, ‘Stick by me and I’ll stick by you.’
Yet everyone around him lived on the thinnest of ice, fearing banishment — though he often brought victims back from the cold, firing and rehiring them with equal nonchalance.
His second wife Caroline Collingwood once explained: ‘He never saw anything he loved that he didn’t want to kick it, just to see if it would still come back.’
Anyone suspected of falling short of fanatical loyalty was subject to his scalding anger. During a business retreat for senior managers, Roy accused executives including his own son-in-law Tom Wambsgans of leaking information to a journalist working on an unauthorised biography.
As punishment, the execs were forced to play a game Roy called ‘boar on the floor’ — crawling on their hands and knees, like the wild boar they had been shooting earlier in the day — as Roy threw them sausages to eat.
READ MORE: Succession shocker! A death shakes the Roy clan to the core… just ahead of a big wedding in the family during the third episode of show’s final season
That keenly awaited biography has yet to be published. Logan Roy did an efficient job of suppressing even basic facts about his life.
Born in Dundee in 1938, the middle of three children, he was sent as a wartime evacuee to Canada with his older brother Ewan and little sister Rose.
The children lived with an uncle, Noah, who was physically abusive. Roy bore the scars of his beatings in deep welts across his back, and as an adult he refused to remove his shirt in public, even on the beach.
Rose died in childhood, a tragedy Logan never discussed, though he sometimes hinted that he blamed himself in some way.
Little is known of his first wife, other than that she suffered a mental breakdown.
After he divorced Caroline, mother of Kendall, Shiv and Roman, he married his third wife, Marcia, a Lebanese divorcee with two children, though at the time of his death she and Roy were apart.
In partnership with brother Ewan, Roy built the family printing shop into a global conglomerate, now valued at more than $16 billion, according to the Los Angeles Times. It includes the New York Globe and the Chicago Daily, as well as Les Temps in Paris and the Shenzhen Sun in China.
The siblings’ partnership fractured, as Ewan became an outspoken supporter of environmental causes — selling his $250 million in Waystar shares and donating the money to Greenpeace.
News was always a stronger suit for Roy than straight entertainment: he was dismissive of social media, buying the online news-sharing site Vaulter for $1 billion in 2018 and promptly shutting it down.
The future of his empire has long been a subject for conjecture. Eldest son Connor stayed aloof from business, preferring to concentrate on politics. Kendall was seen as the frontrunner until his relationship with his father descended into an open feud.
Shiv has political connections but little in the way of business experience. Youngest son Roman is regarded as too volatile, though insiders say he was closest to his father in his final years.
The big question is whether the Roy children will come together in the interests of the company — or fight one another for the top job.
Rumour has it the rivarly between them was once proposed as a TV series for the Waystar Royco cable channels, with a pilot episode called Succession. Now that would be a show worth watching — even though its towering central character, the King Lear of American media, has now sadly left the stage.
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