What Succession teaches us about wealth, taxes and the Murdochs

Succession is about extreme wealth and unbridled power, but it also says a lot about how we tax the rich.

·3-min read
A composite image of the cast of Succession and Rupert Murdoch.
The show Succession is loosely based on Rupert Murdoch. (Source: Getty / HBO Max)

As the Roy family and their obscene displays of wealth return to our screens this week with the final instalment of Succession, Oxfam Australia is shining a light on billionaire wealth, global inequality and is calling for a wealth tax on the super-rich.

The HBO show satirises fictitious extreme wealth, power and unbridled privilege. Though, in reality, this outrageous wealth is present all over the world, as well as here in Australia.

Meanwhile, millions of Aussies are battling an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, wreaking havoc on household budgets.

Forbes calculated approximately just how wealthy Logan Roy and his family were, stacking up a net worth of $26 billion, mostly from the Roy’s 36 per cent stake in Waystar, the publicly traded, $67 billion media and entertainment conglomerate.

That figure is actually in line with the net worth of Rupert Murdoch, the Australian media mogul who loosely inspired the show’s creation.

In the TV show, the Roys own hundreds of millions in real estate - including palaces and castles. The family also holds other eye-wateringly expensive assets, including a $188 million superyacht and helicopters and planes worth $72 million.

Oxfam Australia calculated that if the Roy family’s fortune were subjected to a 5 per cent wealth tax, it could raise a staggering $1.3 billion. Oxfam said that money could provide food to nearly 6 million hungry people every year.

Not only is the Roy’s wealth 25,000 times that of the average Aussie household, the cost of their yacht, planes and helicopters alone represent more than 75 times what the average Aussie earns in their entire lifetime.

This highlighted the absurdity of this one fabled family’s amassed fortune and the injustice and policy failure that enabled extreme wealth to thrive in the world today, Oxfam said.

Oxfam Australia CEO Lyn Morgain said enormous wealth portrayed on Succession existed in the real world, and called for urgent action from governments.

“As millions of people tune in to enjoy the final season of calamity that will undoubtedly ensue in season four, witnessing the Roys board yet another comically extravagant yacht, catch a fleet of helicopters to play a family game of softball, or yet again act in their own despicable self-interest, we must ask ourselves: ‘Is a world where the rich amass all the wealth while millions face life-threatening hunger a world we want to live in?’” Morgain said.

“I’m sure I’m not the only person who sits glued to their screen during each episode of Succession, thoroughly entertained by, yet disgusted and angered, at the wealth of Logan Roy and his children in the context of a world where there is so much need, knowing that their lives portrayed are not fiction, knowing that the soaring cost of living is hurting so many worldwide.

“Billionaires and corporations need to be held accountable. Taxation provides the best tool we have to ensure that no individual or family can hold this level of wealth without contributing to the needs of humanity.”

Staggeringly, just 46 Australians now have a combined wealth of more than $300 billion. Oxfam calculated that a 5 per cent wealth tax on Australian billionaires would raise more than $15 billion per annum.

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