“Sons of Wichita”: New Book about Koch Brothers to Be Published This Week


A new book titled Sons of Wichita: The Saga of the Koch Brothers by Daniel Schulman, “which delves into the four sons of Fred Koch and the influence their oil industry leader and anti-communist father had on them,” is scheduled to be released today. Jim Kelly of Vanity Fair wrote that Schulman, who was intrigued by “how demonized Charles and David had become,” decided to write “a full-scale biography of the family…” Kelly said the author felt the Kochs were “just as worthy of dissection as the Rockefellers.” Schulman was quoted as saying, “Most people do not know just how influential this family has been, affecting politics, business, and culture in both the 20th and 21st centuries.”

Kelly says that Sons of Wichita “is never less than engrossing, a stylishly written saga that, as Bill Koch would put it, makes ‘Dallas and Dynasty look like a playpen.’” Kelly says that although Schulman is a senior editor for Mother Jones, “the book has little ideological heat other than what emanates from the Kochs.” He adds that the biggest surprise for Schulman was the extent to which Fred Koch’s four sons “remain marked by their father”—a man “whose work on oil refineries in Stalin’s Soviet Union led to his helping found the anti-Communist John Birch Society.”

Schulman’s Mother Jones article titled Koch vs. Koch: The Brutal Battle That Tore Apart America’s Most Powerful Family was posted online today. A subheading of the article notes that “Before the brothers went to war against Obama, they almost destroyed each other.”

Here’s an excerpt from Schulman’s article:

Pugilism was an enduring theme in the family. The patriarch, Fred Koch—a college boxer known for his fierce determination—spent the better part of his professional life warring against the dark forces of communism and the big oil companies that had tried to run him out of the refining business. As adults, Fred’s four sons paired off in a brutal legal campaign over the business empire he bequeathed to them, a battle that “would make Dallas and Dynasty look like a playpen,” as Bill once said.

The roles the brothers would play in that drama were established from boyhood. Fred and Mary Koch’s oldest son, Frederick, a lover of theater and literature, left Wichita for boarding school after 7th grade and barely looked back. Charles, the rebellious No. 2, was molded from an early age as Fred’s successor. After eight years at MIT and a consulting firm, Charles returned to Wichita to learn the intricacies of the family business. Together, he and David would build their father’s Midwestern company, which as of 1967 had $250 million in yearly sales and 650 employees, into a corporate Goliath with $115 billion in annual revenues and a presence in 60 countries. Under their leadership, Koch Industries grew into the second-largest private corporation in the United States (only the Minneapolis-based agribusiness giant Cargill is bigger).
Bill, meanwhile, would become best known for his flamboyant escapades: as a collector of fine wines who embarked on a litigious crusade against counterfeit vino, as a playboy with a history of messy romantic entanglements, and as a yachtsman who won the America’s Cup in 1992, an experience he likened, unforgettably, to the sensation of “10,000 orgasms.” Koch Industries made its money the old-fashioned way—oil, chemicals, cattle, timber—and in its dizzying rise, David and Charles amassed fortunes estimated at $41 billion apiece, tying them for sixth place among the wealthiest people on the planet. (Bill ranks 377th on Forbes‘ list of the world’s billionaires.) The company’s products would come to touch everyone’s lives, from the gas in our tanks and the steak on our forks to the paper towels in our pantries. But it preferred to operate quietly—in David’s words, to be “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”

Here’s the link to Schulman’s article:

Koch vs. Koch: The Brutal Battle That Tore Apart America’s Most Powerful Family (Mother Jones)


Sons of Wichita: New book on the Koch brothers out this week (Wichita Business Journal)

Koch Classic (Vanity Fair)

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3 Responses to “Sons of Wichita”: New Book about Koch Brothers to Be Published This Week

  1. Elaine M. says:

    This just in:

    Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity plans $125 million spending spree

    The Koch brothers’ main political arm intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group.

    The projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms.

    The group already has spent more than $35 million on ads attacking vulnerable Democrats in key Senate and House races, according to sources, including Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The $125 million projection comes from a memo obtained by POLITICO, labeled as a “Confidential Investor Update” provided to major donors in March, but a source familiar with AFP called the figure a “very conservative estimate. We’re on track for more than that.”

    An AFP spokesman declined to comment on its 2014 budget, but did not dispute the authenticity of the memo. It details the group’s efforts to beef up its field operation in key counties, and to deploy a new “closed-loop data system in which volunteer and membership information is automatically updated” for access by phone bankers and canvassers roaming neighborhoods with tablets.

    The plans — combined with those of other groups in the sprawling political operation affiliated with the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch — more closely resemble the traditional functions of a national political party than a network of private nonprofit groups.

  2. Anonymously Yours says:

    Excellent. I will have to do a must read. Thank you.

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