Succession spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned!
It’s a wrap on Succession (*sobs aggressively*) and the wild final episode of the Emmy-winning series gave fans a look at who is set to run Waystar Royco in its post Logan Roy era.
In the epic conclusion, the Roy siblings’ flimsy alliance falls apart one last time, culminating in a blowout conference room fight.
The deal to sell Waystar Royco to Lukas Matsson (Alexander Skarsgård) goes through — and to Shiv’s embarrassment, it leaves Tom (Matthew Macfadyen) as the victor. The “corn-fed basic from hockey town” is now the new CEO, over his estranged wife and brothers-in-law.
Of course we’ve all got thoughts about Tom’s rise to CEO and whether he truly deserved it, but what about from a real life business perspective?
We asked five leading experts what they think of “Lip balm Tom Wamb”’s appointment.
Sarah Austin, Founder and Director of the Lloyd’s Bank British Business Awards
“I thought it was incredibly harsh on Shiv. I thought even in a non-progressive way Waystar Rayco might have had the foresight to see the benefits of appointing a pregnant female CEO.
“She was seemingly punished for her more liberal leanings – that did not let up throughout the series. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence in the business landscape – I can only hope the finale has triggered more conversations around female succession as well as political allegiances impacting business decisions.
“Shiv has always been put to the side and watched others succeed – with Tom now receiving the biggest possible win. That would have been very hard to watch. She had so many points in her favour - she had ins with the Matsson’s operation, she is the least tied to controversy and there is the obvious ‘Glass Cliff’ effect when a female CEO is appointed and begins to address the many failings of the former, male boss. On balance, I really feel she should feel aggrieved at not getting the top job!”
Frankie Cotton, CEO and founder of Brick
“Many of us think CEOs have great power, are the ultimate decision maker, and act as the architect of ideas, creating an organisation’s future. But what Succession reminds us is that CEOs report to the board.
“A CEO’s control and power are an illusion. Matsson makes it clear he doesn’t want opinions or differing perspectives from his CEO appointment. He doesn’t want to be challenged by Shiv. Shiv would’ve been too tricky for him; he would have to debate, compromise, convince, listen and respond. With Tom as CEO, Matsson loses that friction altogether. He can execute his vision doggedly.
“Should Tom have got the appointment? It is too generous to view him as simply the best of a bad bunch. His agreeableness is ultimately bad news for the public company. Cognitive conflict (when resolved effectively) is necessary to innovate – and a company’s long-term success depends on its ability to reinvent itself continuously. Matsson’s power may well be Waystar Royco’s downfall... if only we had Series 5 to find out!”
Catherine McManus, founder of Small Business Marketing Consultant
“Did I foresee Tom taking the crown? Absolutely not. It was like the perfect end to a brilliant game of narcissistic chess.
“Nevertheless, from a business perspective, maybe Tom was the best man for the job. Unlike the feuding siblings, who sat in their glass towers and shouted orders from above, Tom had practical experience from working in one of the key, strategic parts of the business.
“As the series progresses, we see him transform from a bumbling and incapable fool, to someone who has learned how to play the game, knows his worth and is willing to sacrifice himself to keep his position. This is what Lukas Matsson needs as he takes over Waystar Royco.
“He needs a yes man, with useful experience, who will serve him and do what it takes...not the risk of an ongoing battle of egos. So, although I can’t comfortably “side” with any of the characters, given how toxic they often are, maybe Tom made the most sense in terms of a CEO under Lukas.”
“Though perhaps an unpopular conclusion, Tom’s appointment as CEO in the Succession finale is reminiscent of many real-world scenarios for businesses across the world. Family ties can be an asset for the further development of a business – or they can see its undoing if nepotism is prioritised over professional ability.
“Ultimately, while many viewers may have been rooting for one of the siblings to come out on top, it was unsurprising from a business perspective to see it go to the outlier, Tom.
“While each sibling had their own motives for wanting to inherit their father’s media empire, their jealousy was ultimately their downfall. A CEO plays a vital role in overseeing the success of a business, and their motivations need to align with the welfare of the business – rather than individual aspirations. And in Tom, Lukas Matsson found a man whose individual aspirations could be bent around the business’s aims.”
Barney Packer, Founder and Director of digital PR agency, Modern Classic Digital
“Succession is a world of deceit, betrayal, and sabotage; all elements make for great TV but terrible for business! From the off, Tom was driven by self-interest rather than a genuine concern for the greater good. Whether manipulating cousin Greg to handle scandalous situations or aligning himself with Logan Roy for personal gain, Tom’s motivations consistently prioritised his own advancement.
“As a result, Tom being appointed CEO means that the board has someone that they can take a ‘carrot and stick’ approach with while perpetuating the terrifying corporate nightmare that is Waystar Royco. There was no good CEO; just a broken business that needed a new face. It just so happened that Tom ended up being exactly that.”