The Inspirations for the Pierce Family in Succession
We first met the Pierce family in season two of Succession, when the Roys arrive at Tern Haven, the estate of the Pierces on Long Island. The family's matriarch, Nan Pierce (Cherry Jones), welcomes the Roys to her home, as Logan tries to finalize the deal to acquire Pierce Global Media (PGM).
Just as there are many real-life families that could've inspired the Roys, the Pierces, too, draw on reality. "The Pierces are not based on any one family, but based on research into reputable, blue-blood, northeastern, legacy-media families like the Bancrofts, the Sulzbergers, the Graham family," Will Tracy, Succession writer, told Vulture.
With the return of the Pierces in season four, let's break down who the family is inspired by:
The Bancroft Family
The clearest real-life comparison for the Pierces is the Bancrofts, if we think of the Roys as the Murdochs. The Bancrofts, notably, sold Dow Jones (owner of the Wall Street Journal) to NewsCrop in 2007. As Slate notes, "Logan Roy follows the Murdoch playbook almost to the letter, offering far more than the business is worth and promising editorial independence for the acquired properties."
The Sulzberger Family
The Sulzberger family is the publishers of the New York Times. Beginning with Adolph Simon Ochs, who bought the paper as it was facing bankruptcy, the publisher job passed to his son-in-law, Arthur Sulzberger (who married Adolph's only daughter, Iphigene Bertha Ochs Sulzberger), then onto their son-in-law Orvil Eugene Dryfoos, then through generations: Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr., Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., and now, A.G. Sulzberger.
The Sulzbergers have a Jewish history, but Sulzberger Jr. was raised Episcopalian, as was his son, Arthur Gregg (or, A.G.). The fictional Pierces are definitively WASP-y, which perhaps rules out the Sulzbergers as a direct influence—but their impact is clear: the Pierces run a New York Mail, a play on the New York Times, and like the fictional "Tern Haven," Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr. has an estate in Southampton and had "Hillandale," an estate in Connecticut. Even the New York Times observes that the Pierces "seems to be a mash-up of the Sulzbergers and the Bancrofts."
The Graham Family
"This being Succession, I know that Nan is not Katharine Graham. She’s a Katharine Graham wannabe," Jones wrote in an e-mail to Succession EP Frank Rich. Frank wrote back and said, "She’s a bus and truck [a.k.a. a low-paying, non-union theater tour] Katharine Graham. But she’s a damn good bus and truck Katharine Graham."
Katharine Graham led The Washington Post from 1963 to 1991; her father, Eugene Meyer, bought the Post in 1933 at a bankruptcy auction. His son-in-law, Katharine's husband, Philip Graham took over after him, and when Philip died by suicide in 1963, Katharine took over.
Nan Pierce shares similarities with Katharine in that they are both women leaders in a predominately male industry. As Slate writes, "There’s the old-money privilege, the noblesse oblige, and the clarity with which she, rather than the CEO, makes all the key decisions."
The Chandler Family
Harrison Gray Otis was the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, but the Chandler dynasty begins when Harry Chandler married Otis's daughter, Marian Otis. He took over from his father-in-law, and transformed the Times. His son, Norman Chandler, took the reins next, then Norman's son, Otis Chandler, was the fourth and final Chandler to run the Los Angeles Times. Like the other families on the list, they are old money, media powerhouses.
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