“Succession” in Latin America: Who Are the Roys of the Region?

What is the reason for the success of "Succession" in the region? We tell you how you can understand, with the popular HBO series, the dynamics of money and power in Latin America.

Still from the series 'Succession'

Photo: HBO Max

LatinAmerican Post | Juan Andrés Rodríguez

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Leer en español: “Succession” en América Latina: ¿Quiénes son los Roy de la región?

The HBO production is consolidating its status as one of the best series in history with its latest season, but many still wonder how the fight of a billionaire family for control of their company can be interesting or relevant. The surprise is that with "Succession" you can understand the dynamics of money and power in Latin America. We tell you why.

The Roy family is inspired by the media moguls and their corporate conglomerates who for nearly a century have shaped America's social, economic, and political landscape : The Murdochs and FOX Corporation, the Redstones and Paramount Global, the Coxes and the Cox Enterprises, etc. Through satire, the series has somewhat dissipated the smoke screen hidden by the interests of that mythical 1% and their mechanisms of action to favor themselves.

These dynamics of money and power are not exclusive to the North American context. In the case of Latin America, where corruption seems to be a habit, the series can be read as an inquiry into the families that control the region and how they exercise it.

From Infrastructure to Sports: Los Slim and Grupo Carso

What do the Diablos Rojos from México and The New York Times have in common? The answer to what seems like a bad joke is that both have the Carso group as a shareholder, led by Carlos Slim, the richest person in Latin America with a fortune of 86 billion dollars, which is equivalent to 6% of Mexico's GDP. The conglomerate has investments in every imaginable sector: infrastructure, commerce, telecommunications, culture, restaurants, sports, and publishing. Suffice it to say that the president on duty must have a line open to calls coming from Plaza Carso (main headquarters built by the family at a cost of 1.4 billion dollars).

Slim is the son of Lebanese immigrants and started his business in 1951, at the age of 11, with an investment in a government savings program. The following year he bought shares in a bank in Mexico, and three years later he was a shareholder in the largest bank in the country. His training as a civil engineer helped him evaluate business prospects in infrastructure.

In 2019 Manuel López Obrador, president of the republic, hinted that Slim would retire at the end of 2024. Although this remains to be verified, everything indicates that his eldest son, Carlos Slim Domit, is preparing to assume the main position. He is president of the administrative board of Carso and América Móvil, the two main lines of business. In this scenario there is also a Roman on the waiting list, Patrick Slim Domit who runs the Sanborns trading group. You can even find a Tom Wambsgans with Arturo Elías Ayub, his son-in-law, who directs content on UNO TV, Claro Sports and has formed a celebrity profile as a jury member for Shark Tank Mexico (a similarity that does not seem coincidental).

Read also: 7 Series you Should Watch if you Like "Succession"

Drinks and Power: the Santo Domingo and the Ardila Lülle

In "Succession," Logan Roy created his emporium from the media, but there are many sources of wealth. In the case of Colombia, two traditional families made it from the same product: drinks.

The history of the Santo Domingo, owners of the Valorem group, begins with the hostile purchase of the Bavaria brewery in 1969. Headed by Julio Mario, the company began to acquire shares in many sectors (aeronautics, entertainment, oil, etc.). Currently, it has in its portfolio two of the most important media outlets in the country (Canal Caracol and El Espectador), as well as retail stores and environmental services such as wood refining.

The family's course after the patriarch's death in 2011 is somewhat eccentric, and its wealth has dwindled markedly. His eldest son passed away in 2009, so his second son, Alejandro, took over the company, making him one of the world's youngest billionaires. The grandchildren have distanced themselves from the family business, though they benefit from the fortune: Tatiana Santo Domingo married Andrea Casiraghi and is now a member of the Monaco royal family, while her brother Julio Mario Santo Domingo III is DJs at celebrity parties In New York.

In contrast, there are the Ardila Lülle, with whom they competed in the 90s. Carlos Arturo created his fortune with refineries and sugary drinks. Both magnates had a commitment not to venture into the other's market, but Ardila broke the pact by entering alcoholic beverages and eventually lost the fight by having to sell the brands to his rival. It expanded its portfolio with the purchase of a communication medium (RCN) and investments in sports equipment. His first son, Carlos Julio, inherited control of the organization in 2021 after his father's death, a trend that may give an idea of the direction of the series.

The Ardila Lülle organization has one of the clearest cases of the articulation of the different resources in the service of a particular interest. In 2016, the Senate debated a law to increase taxes on ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks and discourage their consumption, which clearly affected their income. The power of lobbying in Congress and the change in the editorial line that the law presented as a possible cause for layoffs and reduced income for neighborhood stores was evident. In the end, it was rejected.

"Succession" not only presents a highly entertaining story with a high-quality production, but also demystifies the “impartiality” of traditional media by demonstrating how they articulate with large conglomerates and serve the interests of their owners. This critical look is vital in Latin America, where the influence of these groups in the political and social sphere is far-reaching. The end of the Roy saga is only the beginning of a new look at wealth, power, and money in the modern world.

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