Who Did “Succession” Better: Queen Elizabeth or Logan Roy?

Finding a successor to fill the business founder’s shoes is a challenge. In Texas, we often recommend choosing the heir apparent early and letting him “ride around in the truck” with the founder for several years. By the time the successor takes over the family “ranch,” he’s ready. Moreover, the rest of the stakeholders have been prepared to accept the successor in that key role.

The most compelling example of “riding around in the truck” is King Charles III. Then Prince Charles “rode around in the carriage” for more than 70 years, being groomed by Queen Elizabeth II for his role heading the monarchy.

Another family of business royalty also deserves praise for getting in front of the transition. It’s the family of Bernard Arnault, owner of Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Tiffany & Co., and other luxury brands. Arnault has been grooming his five kids since their early childhood. (“The World’s Richest Person Auditions His Five Children to Run LVMH, The Luxury Empire,” Nick Kostov and Stacy Meichtry, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 19, 2023.)

Arnault drilled the kids in math from early on, even himself studying a math textbook on a flight to Paris after a grueling trip to Asia. “I need to refresh my memory,” said Mr. Arnault to one of his top lieutenants.

The children were encouraged to attend top schools and study engineering. The goal was to develop a rational mindset allowing them to analyze a situation or problem very quickly. Arnault also pairs each of his children with executives who mentor them and keep an eye on their performance. The five kids watch Arnault in action, accompanying him on business trips and negotiations. Now that’s riding around in the truck (or jet)!

Arnault (age 74) is still in the driver’s seat in the truck. LVMH recently raised the retirement age for its chairman and CEO to 80. When the time comes to hand over the wheel, he will choose based on merit. The kids are expected to fall in line. They’ve been taught from a young age to work through disagreements and put the interests of the company first.

Here’s the status of Arnault’s five, each filing a key role:

  • Oldest child (and only daughter) Delphine (48) is CEO of Christian Dior.
  • Antoine (45) is CEO of the company that holds the family’s stake in LVMH.
  • Alexandre (30) is Executive Vice President of Tiffany & Co.
  • Frederic (28) runs Tag Heuer watch brand.
  • Jean (24) is Director of Marketing & Development at Louis Vuitton’s watches division.

Unfortunately, in the world of business succession, Arnault is an outlier. Most media accounts reveal stories of families in disarray after the founder dies, with no one designated or prepared to succeed. The HBO hit series “Succession” is a fictional case-in-point, which just aired its last episode on Sunday. Each week, millions tuned in “to watch the entire Roy family scheme, plot, and backstab their way to replacing the company’s patriarchal founder,” Logan Roy. (“How to Do Succession Better Than Logan Roy,” Miles S. Nadal, Quartz, Mar. 6, 2023.)

Author Nadal draws parallels to Shakespeare’s King Lear, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and Hamlet, other fictional examples of “the brutal realities of succession.” Perhaps Queen Elizabeth II learned lessons from fellow countryman Shakespeare and became determined to get it right. She was certainly a better role model for succession than “Succession’s” Logan Roy.

Marvin E. Blum

King Charles was groomed early on to be successor to the throne, shown here 54 years ago, following his investiture as Prince of Wales, riding around in the carriage (the royal version of a “truck”) next to Queen Elizabeth and her ever-watchful eye.