Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America's Most Powerful and Private Dynasty

Daniel Schulman

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: 1455518727

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Like the Rockefellers and the Kennedys, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of the modern age, but they have never been the subject of a major biography... until now.

Not long after the death of his father, Charles Koch, then in his early 30s, discovered a letter the family patriarch had written to his sons. "You will receive what now seems to be a large sum of money," Fred Koch cautioned. "It may either be a blessing or a curse."

Fred's legacy would become a blessing and a curse to his four sons-Frederick, Charles, and fraternal twins David and Bill-who in the ensuing decades fought bitterly over their birthright, the oil and cattle-ranching empire their father left behind in 1967. Against a backdrop of scorched-earth legal skirmishes, Charles and David built Koch Industries into one of the largest private corporations in the world-bigger than Boeing and Disney-and they rose to become two of the wealthiest men on the planet.

Influenced by the sentiments of their father, who was present at the birth of the John Birch Society, Charles and David have spent decades trying to remake the American political landscape and mainline their libertarian views into the national bloodstream. They now control a machine that is a center of gravity within the Republican Party. To their supporters, they are liberating America from the scourge of Big Government. To their detractors, they are political "contract killers," as David Axelrod, President Barack Obama's chief strategist, put it during the 2012 campaign.

Bill, meanwhile, built a multi-billion dollar energy empire all his own, and earned notoriety as an America's Cup-winning yachtsman, a flamboyant playboy, and as a litigious collector of fine wine and Western memorabilia. Frederick lived an intensely private life as an arts patron, refurbishing a series of historic homes and estates.

SONS OF WICHITA traces the complicated lives and legacies of these four tycoons, as well as their business, social, and political ambitions. No matter where you fall on the ideological spectrum, the Kochs are one of the most influential dynasties of our era, but so little is publicly known about this family, their origins, how they make their money, and how they live their lives. Based on hundreds of interviews with friends, relatives, business associates, and many others, SONS OF WICHITA is the first major biography about this wealthy and powerful family-warts and all.

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group consisted of two entities—a 501(c)(4) organization through which the group conducted its advocacy and political activities and a 501(c)(3) foundation that focused on research and educational pursuits that wouldn’t violate its tax status. 501(c)s, the colloquial terms for tax-exempt organizations, take their names from section 501 of the IRS code. 501(c)(3) nonprofits, to which contributions are tax deductible, are intended for educational or religious purposes. 501(c)(4)s can engage in

rapidly now,” Frederick fumed in the late 1980s. “If I don’t take it on, it will probably go to some millionaire Arab.” He wasn’t far off the mark. St. John’s Lodge now belongs to the Sultan of Brunei. Fed up with bureaucratic wrangling and unwanted press attention, Frederick ultimately settled on a secondary location. Sutton Place was situated on more than 700 picturesque acres about a half-hour’s drive from central London. A courtier to Henry VIII built the 50,000-square-foot Tudor mansion in

as dusk fell on that first day in Indianapolis did Welch unveil his vision. Defeating this many-tentacled monster, Welch explained, required its own multipronged approach: the establishment of Christian Science–like reading rooms and bookstores, to educate people on “the true history of events and developments of the past two decades”; the organizing of front groups (“little fronts, big fronts, temporary fronts, permanent fronts, all kinds of fronts”); and support for conservative news

shareholders should be cheering on what I’ve done for the company instead of complaining.” “Charles, let’s talk about what we want to do here.” Charles laughed sarcastically. “Billy, you’re the type of person that if the bullet is ricocheting around the room and I say duck, you want to debate the merits of the bullet.” “Charles, all I want to talk to you about is how to improve the company.” “Well, Billy, you hate me, you’re out to get me.” “No, Charles, that’s not true.” There was no sense

read, Bill’s newest love interest, thirty-three-year-old Marie Beard, announced she was three months pregnant with his child—and that she was moving into his Palm Beach mansion. In the mid-1990s, an aura of Cold War–esque vigilance enveloped both Oxbow and Koch Industries. In addition to concerns about Dumpster-diving detectives and electronic eavesdropping, both factions also believed the other had slipped informants into their midst. “We were all paranoid because of the tactics that were in

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