Who Should Be Succession’s Next CEO? A Business School Professor Weighs In

Because Logan can’t live forever. Right?
succession hbo business school

Succession, HBO’s tragicomic family business drama, follows the conniving scions of a foundering business empire as they fight over who will succeed its aging patriarch, Logan Roy. Nepotism is a central theme, but as demonstrated by the show’s plot—not to mention some recent real life succession dramas—family ties in the workplace can lead to widely unpredictable outcomes. As season 3 begins this week, the future CEO is still anyone’s guess.


Theoretically, succession plans should be less about blind loyalty and more about capability and personality. So, in search of a more professional assessment, VICE asked Dr. Julia Lee Cunningham, associate professor of management and organizations at University of Michigan Ross. She judged the candidates’ management skills and ranked them from worst to best.

Does Kendall’s betrayal of Logan prove his killer instinct? Will Shiv’s negotiating skills land her the top job? Is Roman and Gerri’s bizarre courtship really compatible with corner office life? Can you make a Tomellete without breaking any Gregs? 

#8: Roman Roy (youngest son, somewhat actual human person)

Dr. Cunningham: “Like [his older brother] Kendall, Roman seems to be constantly craving affection, and his insecure attachment style may explain his relationship with Gerri [the company’s general counsel]. While he appears to be fairly capable as a manager, his lack of integrity and moral compass—as evidenced in his treatment of those who aren’t his family, or ‘no real person’— makes him dangerous to the entire enterprise.” 

#7: Connor Roy (eldest son, hyper-decanting expert)

Dr. Cunningham: “Connor seems to be less cruel than the rest of his family, and may even be somewhat emotionally sensitive. But his lack of self-awareness may become a liability for the company if he were to lead.”

#6: Tom Wambsgans (son-in-law, stealer of chicken)

Dr. Cunningham: “Tom appears to be extremely insecure and power-hungry, as evidenced in his ‘kiss up and kick down’ behaviors. He has very little regard for people who work under him, which makes him unsuitable as a leader.”

#5: Kendall Roy (middle son, tribute rapper)

Dr. Cunningham: “Kendall desperately craves his father’s approval and respect at all times, no matter how unattainable it seems. While he appears to understand the business well, and is capable of pulling off a revolution against his father’s reign—and yes, I think this is his way of proving his killer instinct—his love-hate relationship with his father is what makes him deeply insecure, volatile, and self-destructive.

#4: Marcia Roy (wife, savage-burner-in-chief)

Dr. Cunningham: “We know little about Marcia, but she may be the only one with the killer instinct that Logan wants for his successor! I hope that her character is further developed and her management skills are put to test in the upcoming season.”

#3: Siobhan “Shiv” Roy (daughter, opener of marriages)

Dr. Cunningham: “Shiv is the most complex character to me. On the one hand, she’s quite capable and politically savvy—as evidenced by her career outside her father’s company—and seems to have a line that she won’t cross in saving Tom. On the other hand, like her brothers, she is willing to do whatever it takes to protect the family’s company, even if it means she has to silence the victim. Still, she seems to be the most stable character whose self-worth is not entirely contingent on her father’s approval, and that makes her a stronger candidate than her siblings.”

#2: Greg “The Egg” Hirsch (great-nephew, former California Pizza Kitchen aficionado)

Dr. Cunningham: “Greg is my favorite character on this show—yes, he is a wild card, but he is assimilating with the Roys fast. He seems to have the best survival instinct and strategy to navigate the family dynamics, and has better interpersonal skills that would come in handy when the revolution comes and employees demand better treatment.”

#1: Rhea Jarrell (love interest and one-time successor, secret liberal)

Dr. Cunningham: “Although Rhea drops out [of Logan’s plan to hand control of the company to her] once she realizes that Waystar Royco is a sinking ship, she still seems to be the only person who recognizes the danger of toxic culture. As someone who is familiar with family-owned conglomerates, it seems plausible and healthy to bring in professional executives with experience and expertise needed for Waystar Royco. I think she would be a good fit for that, if she is given the power and independence to clean up the messes!”