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Tyrannical Town Tycoon

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He owns the waterworks, the railroad, and the hotel on Baltic Avenue. His family held the deed of every square inch of the Company Town since the day it was founded. And if you cross him, he'll not only burn down your house, but throw your mother out of work and send your best friend to the morgue. Forget about going to the police or the local courthouse, because he owns them too. Your only hope is to somehow recruit that stranger with the mysterious past, or, if you can find them, some mercenaries.

The Tyrannical Town Tycoon is the capitalist successor to the previous class of landed gentry that used to fill the same role. Naturally there are numerous examples that helped inspire the trope and made such figures salient to everyday people. Often portrayed as a Patriarch (or Matriarch) of an extended (often Evil Colonialist in some settings) family that can serve as their muscle, they often succeed in completely cowing the entire town into accepting their villainy, even in societies where one wouldn't expect it.

The Tyrannical Town Tycoon is always a Big Fish in a Small Pond, content to dominate their little fiefdom without much greater ambition. Often times they are able to get away with their crimes because nobody in the big city or state capitol notices what's going on out in the countryside. If a hero is unable to defeat Potter and his family by kicking, most times just getting word out will be enough to summon The Cavalry.

While once popular in all forms of media, the Tyrannical Town Tycoon is on its way to becoming a Discredited Trope (or, at least, an Evolving Trope), at least in the developed world. Corrupt executives working for large corporations have stepped in to take their place, as the Real Life local businesses that once influenced small town life have been bought up by larger and larger players whose wealthy owners don't even bother to live near the communities they are destroying.

As a result of these developments, more modern works usually need to Hand Wave away the growing unlikelihood of a major businessperson being confined to one town by claiming that the person actually has a massive business empire outside it (which probably remains completely offscreen), but they care about this town in particular for some reason (e.g., it being their hometown). That said, this trope is still acceptable in Period Pieces set in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Tyrannical Town Tycoon was a relevant figure in small-town life.

Usually a modern implementation of Aristocrats Are Evil or the Feudal Overlord. Almost certainly a Corrupt Corporate Executive, just one with enough power and influence to run a whole town. Sub-trope of I Own This Town, where someone basically owns the town but may do so through a variety of other methods like organized crime or political connections. If the Small-Town Tyrant is wealthy enough, they often fit this trope, but the Tyrannical Town Tycoon can apply to any region. One Nation Under Copyright is a related trope, where instead the nation is owned by a corporation, with Tyrannical Town Tycoon being part of it.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Big O: Alex Rosewater leads Paradigm Corporation and the city it shares its name with because there's no one else more influential in the absence of an actual government After the End, with the fate of the outside world unknown to the masses. He exploits the city's collective amnesia from forty years ago to maintain control even at the cost of its people. He also wants to reset the world and rebuild it in his own image.
  • Mashin Hero Wataru Series: Ack Smoggle is a wealthy industrialist and mob boss in the service of Doakdar who built factories over Mt. Sokai's Fifth Tier's forest town of Holywood and desecrated it with pollution, while holding back the Good Seeds from restoring the environment. He's actually Brainwashed and Crazy and in his true form, he just wants to play golf.

    Comic Books 
  • Don Rosa's Scrooge McDuck is a Lighter and Softer example with the whole of Duckburg being built around his financial empire. He nevertheless holds lease with the majority of the city, and holds sway with the local branch of the army, going as far as being able to order a missile strike to his doorstep. Played for Laughs, of course.
  • Green Lantern: During one Pre-Crisis tale by Denny O'Neil, Green Lantern and Green Arrow come across the town of Desolation, ruled over by the tyrannical Mine Owner Slapper Soams. His mine being the only employer in the area, grants Soams power to the point that the towns police are not only his goons but mercenary former Nazis. When a worker, Johnny, starts singing protest songs, Soams has him arrested, put through a show trial and sentenced to hang. Soams even sparks his workers to rebel, solely so his guards can kill a third of them and thus cow the remainders into permanent unquestioning obedience to him.
  • Lucky Luke: In the story "Western Circus", Lucky Luke helps out a circus family trying to perform in a town where pretty much everything is owned by a man named Corduroy Zilch, who considers the circus a harmful competition for his own annual rodeo.
  • A late arc in the Preacher comic involved Jesse living in a small backwoods town, where the corrupt owner of the large meat processing plant that is the backbone of the town acts in this manner. Jesse becomes the town sheriff and acts to counter the would be petty tyrant.

    Films — Animation 
  • An Angel for Christmas has D.D. Kovet, boss of the town's massive flange-factory where nearly everyone works. He's wealthy enough and powerful enough to even have his own Secret Police used to stamp out any mention of "Christmas".
  • Demonstrated in The Lorax (2012) with Thneedville, which comes off as a serene, self-sufficient town, but is actually being pocketed and controlled by Aloysius O'Hare. The town's mayor and a Corrupt Corporate Executive, he takes advantage of the polluted air surrounding the town in order to sell "clean air" to the residents to make a fortune. He has the entire town monitored with surveillance equipment and uses goons to try and silence any talk that he deems could be a threat to his immoral enterprise.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Biff Tannen becomes this in Hill Valley in the alternate timeline in Back to the Future Part II, thanks to the future Grey Sports Alamanac. The reveal of the alternate Hill Valley cinematically mimics that of "Potterville" in It's a Wonderful Life.
  • The Beast: Schuyler Graves is (supposed to be) this, as he basically runs the town of Graves Point (to the point its seemingly named after him) by virtue of being the harbour master and owning profitable businesses in town
  • Mrs. Deagle from Gremlins owns the bank, is therefore the richest person in town, and is a bitch to everyone. (Also in the deleted scenes it's revealed she was forcing people out of their homes to put down a strip mall, effectively destroying Kingston Falls.) When a woman and her children walk up to her in her first scene to ask for a couple more days' extension so they can pay her, she has this to say before telling them that she'll be more than glad to kick them out of their home on Christmas:
    Mrs. Deagle: The bank and I have the same purpose in life — to make money.
  • Alonzo Hawk in Herbie Rides Again owns a huge chunk of San Francisco thanks to properties he bought and he seriously thinks it gives him the right to bully citizens to force them to sell and then has no problem sending bulldozers to wreck their homes while they are still in them. He bites a whole lot more than he can chew when he targets Mrs. Steinmetz, the current owner of Herbie, in his desire to make his new headquarters right where her house is.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: Old Man Potter owns the only bank in town which, as we see in the alternate future, is enough to give him complete control of the lives of everyone in it and allowing him to turn it into an Egopolis. Stands out for not needing to use violence to get what he wants.
  • Brad Wesley exemplifies this trope in Road House (1989), being able to do pretty much whatever he pleases while leaching off the citizens of Jasper using his son and the local police force to maintain order.
  • In Richie Rich's Christmas Wish, Reggie becomes the Mr. Potter of the film's It's a Wonderful Plot.
  • Walking Tall (2004) has Army veteran Chris Vaughn return to his Tennessee hometown to find his family's lumber mill is failing, meth-heads roam the streets, and his boyhood buddy Jay Hamilton runs the casino, which is almost the only thriving enterprise in town. Not only is Hamilton fleecing the locals, but he also clandestinely operates a meth lab, and "owns" the town sheriff.
  • Almira Gulch from The Wizard of Oz owns half of the entire county, and threatens to bring a damage suit against a farm because of a small dog barking at her.
  • Nyaga from The Air Up There all but owns the small town of Mingori, and freely steals from the inhabitants. He hopes to acquire the even smaller town of Winabi so he can mine the land for iron, and steals the residents' cattle in an attempt to drive them off their land.

  • Played with in Holes - Charles "Trout" Walker was the son of the man who owned the town next to the lake where the story is set. An Entitled Bastard and overgrown Spoiled Brat because his father owned the town, he tried to force a relationship with the local schoolmarm Kate Barlow. When Kate rejected his advances, he responded by leading a lynch mob to burn down her school and murdering the man she loved.
  • I Stop Somewhere has Caleb and Noah's father, who beats his wife yet is wealthy and well-connected within their town as he makes money off the number of abandoned houses, buying them up after foreclosure.
  • Red Harvest: In the backstory, wealthy industrialist Elihu Willsson controlled the town of Personville (known to the locals as Poisonville), including the mayor, police, and local gang leaders. So complete was his control, he was called the Czar of Poisonville. But by the present day, Elihu's lost control: the leaders of the mob factions and corrupt cops rebelled against him, and they know enough about Elihu's dirty secrets to bring him down if he tries to do anything to them through legal means.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team seemed to go up against these kinds of antagonists in a majority of their episodes and might even serve as the modern day Trope Codifier.
  • In The Dukes of Hazzard corrupt businessman Boss Hogg owns most of the property and businesses in Hazzard County, and while he doesn't have any official connection to the sheriff's office the sheriff always takes orders from him.
  • The Lincoln County War is a feud between Lawrence Murphy and his business partner James Dolan, who were trying to maintain a dry goods monopoly, and newcomers John Tunstall, his partner Alexander McSween and their ranch hand Billy the Kid.
  • My Name Is Earl featured both Chubby and (after he died) his son Little Chubby owning damn near every store and operation in Camden County.

  • W.O. Calloway in A Very Fatal Murder is a wind tycoon who runs pretty much every industry in Bluff Springs, Nebraska. Intrepid reporter David Pascall suspects that Calloway is responsible for the murder of Hayley Price, but it turns out he's just a Scatterbrained Senior.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas: Before the Great War Robert Edwin House, CEO and owner of RobCo and easily one of the richest men alive, was a (somewhat) benevolent version to Las Vegas. He bought up every single business in the town save one that belonged to his half brother (who originally cheated him out of his inheritance), effectively giving him absolute power over the city (to the point he could ruin the local economy just to hurt his brother). Predicting the war with China fifteen years in advance, this allowed him to make precautions to ensure the city would survive the war and could rebuild after the end (complete with anti-missile lasers on the roofs of casinos, orbital satellites to fry incoming ICBM's) as well as ensuring his own survival. His methods worked so well that after the war he upgraded New Vegas to One Nation Under Copyright with himself serving as "autocrat".
  • Tonight We Riot has the Big Bad, Chaz Whippleton III, the Corrupt Corporate Executive of Whippleco, which owns all businesses and buildings in the city. His respect for his employees is precisely nil.

  • Housepets!: Keene Milton teeters on this line. Keene co-owns the town of Babylon Gardens alongside his siblings, but is by far the most morally black character among them. He's depicted as buying out courts, tampering with the law, and running underhanded schemes to get his way whereas the others more often just use their money for Conspicuous Consumption. Played With, as he's not amoral or vicious, just short-sighted, greedy, and careless. He has ultimately good intentions of bringing about equality, and ends up causing a lot of good change by the end of the comic, even as he pulls ridiculous stunts (like building a Hot Springs in the middle of town on a whim) and bribes his way out of police consequences. Those who have to live under him just find him nearly a bit too frustrating to give him credit for the good he does.

    Web Original 
  • The CollegeHumor video "SimCity Mayor" is a faux campaign ad where the mayor of Sim City basically threatens to destroy the city with natural disasters unless he gets re-elected.
  • One of the SCP Foundation submissions for the "001" spot is that the Factory, one of the recurring bad guys of the setting, was the first anomaly the Foundation ever investigated, and that it was a Company Town led by a Tyrannical Town Tycoon with an interest in mad science and the occult.

    Western Animation