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The Top 100 Family Influencers – Fictional Characters

Late last year, Family Capital sent out a survey to its readers asking them to nominate who they felt were the most influential individuals in the world of family enterprises. We were looking for a wide gambit of names from different backgrounds, both linked directly to family enterprises and those in an advisory role in the sector. We received more than 2000 responses. 

Through these responses and our own knowledge of the world of both family businesses and family office – indeed, the world of family capital – we were able to draw up a list of the Top 100 Influences. These are the individuals who our readers and Family Capital believe are the most influential people in the family enterprise world. No doubt some readers might think others merit inclusion and some on the list might not, but Family Capital believes the 100 names represent a pretty good cross-section of the Top Influencers in the sector. 

Given the length of the 100, we have broken them down into eight categories: Financiers; Businesses; Consultants; Investors; Lawyers; Executive Search; Academics; and Fictional Characters – which is our third group to feature in our twice-weekly series to run over the next month and a bit. To see our first list – Investors please click here. To see our second list – Academics please click here

King Lear

Is there a better story that portrays family succession? Is there a better story that portrays the dangers of dividing an empire/business? Is there a better story that portrays how unwise it is to over-estimate the obsequious nature of offspring and underestimate the less favoured ones? We could go on. 

King Lear has got it all and more when it comes to the emotional side and power struggles that beset most family dynasties and businesses. It should be mandatory reading for family members of business dynasties no matter how large or small.  

Lear’s resonance remains as great today as it has ever been and family business dynasties remain at the heart of that resonance. Just last week, King Lear was mentioned in the many obituaries for the family business patriarch and media magnate Sumner Redstone. Many writers of those obituaries called Redstone: “The Media’s Larger-Than-Life King Lear”.

King Lear will never go away as a morality tale of the madness of too much power, the unfaithfulness of the next-gen, the merits and demerits of breaking up an empire/business… And it’s a morality tale that has special significance to family enterprises – that’s why the King is one of Family Capital’s 100 Family Influencers. 

 

Charles Foster Kane/Citizen Kane

Many of the great film and literary characters are often based on real-world characters. And Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane is one of the most pertinent ever. The film, often viewed by critics as the greatest ever made, stars a mesmerizing Orsen Wells playing Kane, who is loosely based on the American newspaper baron, William Randolph Hearst. Like Hearst, Kane inherits a fortune and goes on to build a bigger, wealthier, and more powerful dynasty. 

In many ways, Kane is the archetypical second-generation scion who goes on the create a bigger empire than the first with extraordinary energy and verve. Of course, Kane is ultimately destroyed by his greed and lust for power. And what appears to be his only memory of significant, despite all his business and political successes, is the sledge called Rosebud. 

Perhaps a lament for a simpler, must less materialistic life? Whatever the meaning of Rosebud, and it will be continuously debated, Citizen Kane is a seminal portrayal of a business dynasty and for that reason, Citizen Kane is one of Family Capital’s 100 Influencers. 

 

J.R. Ewing

For anyone of a certain age who remembers the 1980s, J.R. Ewing was as ubiquitous as any TV character that’s ever been portrayed. Forever immortalized by his Texan ten-gallon hat, J.R. Ewing, played by actor Larry Hagman, was the brash, immoral second-generation son of a family oil dynasty. 

In the background of the series is the constant rivalry between two family dynasties – the Ewings and the Barnes, with added intrigue given the founder generation characters John “Jock” Ewing and Willard “Digger” Barnes were originally business partners before falling out. It’s up to the next generation to take this bitterness to a much higher level, which is done with such great effect by J.R. Ewing and his siblings.  

Was Dallas a King Lear for the late 20th century as much as Succession is today? Probably not, the family empire angle is probably less obvious in Dallas than Succession and the nastiness a lot less subtle in the Texan melodrama. But JR Ewing and the family rivalry in Dallas has King Lear overtones and merits attention from the connoisseurs of family enterprise culture. And for that reason, JR Ewing is one of Family Capital’s 100 Influencers.

Logan Roy and the Roy family

When Succession first aired more than two years ago, it got scant recognition in the family enterprise world and even less in the wider world. But as the second series progressed, the now acclaimed HBO production broke through, becoming a contemporary classic – and absolute required viewing for anyone associated with the family enterprise world. 

Through the lives of the Roy family and its patriarch, Logan Roy, Succession portrays the billionaire media family enterprise so well it’s almost as if you’re watching a fly on the wall documentary. Yes, there are sometimes over the top and comedic sketches, but it all seems so real. It’s brilliantly acted, specifically Brian Cox as the patriarch Logan Roy, and Kieran Culkin as one of Logan’s sons, Roman Roy. 

The viewer, especially those who know a thing or two about family businesses, has a sneaking suspicion that most multi-billionaire dollar dynasties are actually as dysfunctional as the Roy family is portrayed, despite all the PR gloss. Succession and the Roy family is so apt and wonderfully to the culture of family enterprises – that’s why Logan Roy and the Roy family are together one of Family Capital’s 100 Influencers. 

 

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