4 minute read

One of America's Wealthiest Heirs is on a Mission to Overthrow the U.S.

Fergie Chambers is the heir to the Cox family fortune, one of America’s wealthiest dynasties. But what he’s doing with his millions may not be what you’d expect.

Patrick Hicks

Patrick Hicks, @PatrickHicks

Head of Legal, Trust & Will

HBO's television series "Succession" starring Brian Cox and Jeremy Strong tells the convoluted story of the fictional Roy family that owns one of the largest multimedia companies in the world, Waystar-Royco. One of the main story arcs features eldest son, Kendall (played by Jeremy Strong), as the black sheep of the family. When it becomes clear that his father won't be giving him heirship to the throne like he thought he would, he decides to go renegade against the family and take on the role of anarchist.

As it turns out, this plot doesn't veer too far off from a real life story that is currently unfolding, and that is the story of Fergie Chambers, heir to one of America's wealthiest families. If you were the heir to one of the largest fortunes known, what would you do with it?

Who is Fergie Chambers?

Fergie Chambers, often referred to as Jim, stands out as a striking contradiction: a wealthy heir advocating for the overthrow of the capitalist system that built his fortune. At 39 years old, Chambers is an heir of the Cox family, owners of the Cox Enterprises, a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. According to Forbes, The family is estimated to be valued at around $26.8 billion.

Chambers's wealth comes in the form of quarterly dividends out by Cox. As a partial owner of the family company, he has at least $250 million in his pocket.

Early in his life, Chambers broke away from the family and has established himself as a radical "revolutionary," according to Rolling Stone Magazine.

Early Influences and Radical Persona

From his early teens, Chambers identified as a communist, influenced by his education and personal reflections on societal inequalities. His grandmother, Anne Cox Chambers, a notable figure in Democratic politics and ambassador to Belgium, advocated for operating behind the scenes, valuing anonymity. In contrast, Chambers believes in the visibility of activism, feeling that it is essential for generating momentum and challenging societal norms.

Over the past decade, Chambers has been at the forefront of numerous left-wing demonstrations. His more notable protests include chaining himself to an Israeli weapons manufacturer and defacing a McDonald's at a pro-Palestine rally. These actions signal that he definitely did not take his grandmother's advice to heart and is using his inherited power for radical activism.

His political estrangement reached a peak when he sold his shares in Cox Enterprises, which were substantial enough to fund his revolutionary ambitions. This financial independence marked his formal break from the family's capitalist endeavors, redirecting his wealth to support socialist and anti-imperialist causes.

Fergie Chambers Today

Today, Chambers has garnered public attention for his anti-Israel sentiments and protestations against "Cop City," an Atlanta Public Safety Training Center that is partially funded by his own family. He claims himself as a Communist who loves guns and has a tattoo of the letters "ACAB," which stands for "All cops are bastards." His support for contentious geopolitical positions, such as backing Russia’s actions in Ukraine and supporting Hamas, further fuels his controversial image.

He has publicly slammed his family's legacy, the Cox media empire, as an example of "rotten capitalism." Ironically, it is this capitalism that his afforded him the hundreds of millions he is using to fund his activities.

The Cox Family Legacy: What Will it Look Like?

Cox Enterprises was founded by Fergie Chambers' great-grandfather, James Cox. He served as the former governor of Ohio and was also heavily involved in the Democratic party.

Cox is the country's largest provider of broadband, and also owns a variety of media companies such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kelley Blue Book, Axios, and radio and television stations. The combined political and capitalist prowess made the family the 10-wealthiest in the U.S. (Mentioned earlier, over $26 billion.)

Eventually, the Cox empire was inherited by Governor Cox's daughters, Barbara and Anne Cox.

Anne Cox Chambers went on to become a diplomat and mother of three children. Before she passed away in 2020, Cox Chambers bequeathed her Cox company shares to her children, including Fergie's father James who owns 17 percent of the company.

After experiencing a number of events that he didn't agree with, Fergie decided to cut ties with the family and sold his shares of the company.

Rolling Stone Magazine quotes Chambers in a profile piece, "Yes, I  have daddy issues and that informs my politics. My dad is emblematic of everything wrong with capitalist society. As a result, it has helped me develop political analyses. Life experience informs what we become. This is the case for every single human being on Earth.”

Meanwhile, Chambers' first cousin Alex Taylor now serves as the CEO of Cox Enterprises, making the $10 million donation to "Cop City" that Chambers so vehemently despises.

While it is hard to tell what will happen in the future, it is clear that for now, the Cox family legacy is split in two: those who are loyal to the family, and the individual who is not. However, the amount of media attention and power amassed by Fergie renders him a heavy counterweight. Surely, the amount of infamy he has attracted is causing some of his ancestors to roll around in their graves.

Estate Planning Philosophy: Should Adult Children Inherit Shares of the Family Company?

The Fergie Chambers story, as well as the fictional story of the Roys, begs an interesting question: is it always a good idea to give your adult children shares of the family business? What does that do to a family legacy if all doesn't go to plan? As we've seen, there are serious consequences when it comes to deserters such as Fergie Chambers and Kendall Roy that can wreak havoc and impact a family's reputation.

On the other hand, handing down shares of the family business can also be seen as a way to keep power and wealth within the family for generations to come. Nate Tobik, author of the blog Oddball Stocks, writes about how closely held companies (those where the founder and/or family members own a controlling stake) tend to outperform the market long-term. It can also serve as an incentive for younger generations to continue working hard and contributing to the success of the company.

Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to passing down a family business. Each family must carefully consider their own dynamics, values, and goals before making such a decision. It is important to have open and honest communication within the family, as well as proper legal and financial advice, to ensure a smooth transition of ownership.

Additionally, it is crucial for the next generation to be properly prepared and trained to take on leadership roles in the company. This includes not only understanding the operations and strategies of the business, but also being equipped with strong communication and conflict resolution skills to navigate potential challenges within the family.

Fergie Chambers' story is a compelling narrative of wealth, power, and ideological transformation. His journey from an Heir of a prominent American family to a radical activist challenging the very foundations of capitalist society poses profound questions about legacy, influence, and the true cost of change. His life, marked by both privilege and protest, highlights the complex dynamics of inheriting power and choosing to wield it for incendiary purposes. While not all will agree with Fergie Chambers' tactics, no one can deny that he is carving out his own path and creating a legacy of his own.

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