Like much of America, last evening I was glued to my television watching the finale of Home Box Office’s Shakespearean drama “Succession.” For those unfamiliar with the show, over its four seasons it tracked the fortunes of the Roy family (loosely modeled on Rupert Murdoch and his clan). As the title implies, the central question the show asked (and ultimately answered) was who would succeed Roy family patriarch Logan as the head of the family business. Like other HBO prestige television shows, Succession was “must see TV” for its fans every Sunday evening. Without giving away the plot, the answer to the Roy family succession question came as a surprise to many and viewers will likely debate the ultimate resolution for years to come.
With much of my focus on Bangladesh these days, it is no surprise that my thoughts the day after the television show’s conclusion turned to parallels between the Roy family drama and succession scenarios in the South Asian country. Having spent over three decades following events in Bangladesh, I have seen a variety of successions—some more successful than others. At a macro level, I have also been repeatedly reminded in recent years that a succession from the Liberation War generation to its progeny is under way. Just recently, one of the titans of this generation, my friend Nur e Alam Siddique passed away, just the latest in a series of passings I have marked since my last time in Dhaka. We all eventually star in our own version of Succession.
While I have seen some successful succession scenarios play out in Bangladesh, on the whole my impression is that these are the exception rather than the rule. Over the years, the norms that provided for smooth transitions within institutions have dissolved, leaving individuals to scramble when a succession scenario becomes inevitable. While unplanned successions can ultimately prove to be successful, they also run the risk of disaster as those who take up the mantle lack the attributes necessary to take their institutions into the future. Those I admire most in Bangladesh are well aware of this tendency and have deliberately approached the issue of succession within their own domains.
Back to the Roy family, ultimately I hold Logan Roy responsible for the chaos that followed his death as his children and colleagues jockeyed for position in an attempt to take over the family business. Like another favorite HBO Series (Game of Thrones) viewers were left wondering whether there were any winners when the closing credits rolled. Logan Roy was a larger than life figure who achieved great things in his fictional world, but who left plenty of carnage in his wake. Even though everyone around him knew that a succession scenario would eventually play out, Logan proved incapable of subordinating his ego to the greater good (of his family or the company’s shareholders). With the series having ended, we don’t know how the future will play out for the Roy family. Chances are, however, that Logan’s legacy will likely be determined as much by the decisions he did not make as those that he did.