The Secret Empire began as a subsidiary of HYDRA before spinning off as its own organization. The hierarchy and methods have changed considerably over the years. Early versions of the Secret Empire were responsible for the creation of Wild Child and for kidnapping the X-Men, during the "hidden years" when the team had no ongoing title.
Later versions of the Empire were run by Professor Power, whose fanatical hatred of Charles Xavier led him to plan the assassination of the New Mutants, although the attack never happened. The next Secret Empire operated as a low-rent Hellfire Club, a "fraternal lodge" organization whose everyday members were unaware they were financing the criminal activities of the founders. The Royalist Forces of America also once assumed the Secret Empire alias for their forces.