How Tywin grew the Lannisters’ wealth
Warning: spoilers ahead.
Game of Thrones (GOT)’s Tywin Lannister, the ruthless patriarch of the wealthiest family in Westeros, is feared for his cruelty but admired for his business prowess.
It was believed the Lannister family derived their riches from the gold mines beneath their domain on Casterly Rock.
But the mines had been long empty, and it was through strategic risk-taking and savvy investments that Tywin acquired wealth, worth about $10 billion.
Russell Smith Chartered Accountants has an engaging infographic on GOT’s business model (see https://www.talk-business.co.uk/2017/08/08/game-of-thrones-business-lessons-can-learn-tywin-lannister-infographic/).
This consists, among others, of:
“Branding: Maintain the illusion of wealth and control, maintain the respect and power that come with it.
“Capital investments: Invest in land, property, castles, livestock and manpower.
“Borrowing: The Crown owes the Iron Bank a lot of money. Like a Limited Corporation, money borrowed against an organization is not held accountable to the individual. Tywin maintains Lannister wealth and protects the house by borrowing against a separate entity: the Crown.
“Lending: Loan to other houses and lords. Gather revenue through interest.
“Conglomerate ownership: The Lannisters … reap the financial benefits of owning the continent. This includes taxation and access to more capital investments, such as King’s Landing or the Royal Fleet.”
My favorite scene of Tywin, which (almost) makes him a sympathetic character, comes in the fourth season of GOT. He was comforting his grandson Tommen, both of them mourning over the corpse of Tommen’s brother Joffrey, the evil boy-king spoiled to death by his mother Cersei (Tywin’s daughter).
Tywin asks Tommen what the latter thinks a good king needs most of all. Tommen, as innocent as his brother was not, says, “Holiness?”
“Baelor the Blessed was holy,” says Tywin. “And pious. He built this sept. He also named a 6-year-old boy high septon because he thought the boy could work miracles. He ended up fasting himself into an early grave because food was of this world and this world was sinful.”
“Orys I was just,” says Tywin. “Everyone applauded his reforms. Nobles and commoners alike. But he wasn’t just for long. He was murdered in his sleep after less than a year by his own brother. Was that truly just of him? To abandon his subjects to an evil that he was too gullible to recognize?”
“King Robert was strong,” says Tywin. “He won the rebellion and crushed the Targaryen dynasty. And he attended [only] three small council meetings in 17 years. He spent his time whoring and hunting and drinking until the last two killed him.”
“Yes! But what is wisdom?” says Tywin. “A house with great wealth and fertile lands asks you for your protection against another house with a strong navy that could one day oppose you. How do you know which choice is wise and which isn’t? You’ve any experience of treasuries and granaries or shipyards and soldiers?
“A wise king knows what he knows and what he doesn’t,” Tywin concludes. “A wise young king listens to his counselors and heeds their advice until he comes of age. And the wisest kings continue to listen to them long afterwards.”
It was a self-serving and manipulative conversation—Tommen was to replace Joffrey, and Tywin of course wanted to be his adviser—but it had remarkable insights nonetheless.
Sadly, Tywin never takes his own advice.
Tywin might be skillful in business, but he is horrible at parenting. Ultimately, it is the dysfunctional family relationships—not business ones—that would cause the downfall of House Lannister.
Next week we discuss lessons to be derived from Tywin’s relationship with his heirs.
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