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Who Are The Koch Brothers Anyway?
The Foundations of Koch Industries In 1927, Fred Koch—father to David and Charles Koch and graduate of MIT’s chemical engineering program—developed a revolutionary new way for refiners to turn crude oil into gasoline. The new thermal cracking technique was so disruptive to the industry that big oil companies filed 44 lawsuits against Koch, all of which were eventually defeated. In 1940, Fred co-founded the Wood River Oil & Refining Company, the predecessor to today’s Koch Industries.
Handing Over the Reins In 1961, with Fred’s health deteriorating, Charles agreed to move from Boston, where he worked for consulting firm Arthur D. Little, back to Kansas to help his dad run the family business. In 1967, after Fred’s passing, Charles took over for the company. In 1970, David joined the company as well.
Diversification of Industries The company’s legacy businesses are still a key part of operations: Refining Chemical and fertilizer production Asphalt Pipelines Engineering equipment But Koch Industries has expanded into new markets: Polymers Finance Paper products, including many popular brands: Quilted Northern Angel Soft Dixie Brawny
Building an Empire Employment Roughly 60,000 Koch employees are located in the United States. Another 40,000 are spread out across at least 29 different countries. Revenue According to Forbes, Koch Industries is the second biggest privately-owned company in the United States, behind Cargill. The company reportedly brought in $115 billion in revenue in 2012. Ownership David and Charles each reportedly own 42% of Koch Industries. According to Forbes, David and Charles are both worth $41.3 billion, or just over $80 billion combined.
The Business Approach that Built Koch Market-Based ManagementThis is an approach spearheaded by Charles, and has five key dimensions. Taking directly from the Koch website: Vision: Determining where and how the organization can create the greatest long-term value. Virtue and Talents: Helping ensure that people with the right values, skills and capabilities are hired, retained and developed. Knowledge Processes: Creating, acquiring, sharing and applying relevant knowledge, and measuring and tracking profitability. Decision Rights: Ensuring the right people are in the right roles with the right authority to make decisions and holding them accountable. Incentives: Rewarding people according to the value they create for the organization.
How Their Political Views Formed A Trip to Russia While patriarch Fred Koch was fending off law-suits over his thermal cracking technique, he traveled to the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and early 1930s to investigate business opportunities. What he saw there distressed him, and provided the impetus to write A Business Man Looks at Communism, which highlighted the key problems he found with that form of government. According to the The Weekly Standard: “Conversations at the dinner table often revolved around the Communist threat.”
Political Activity A Run for The White House In 1980, David was on the Libertarian ticket for President with running-mate Ed Clark. The duo garnered 1.06% of the popular vote, the highest ever for a Libertarian ticket. Ronald Reagan won the general election. A Split with LibertariansDavid broke rank with Libertarians in 1984 when the party advocated eliminating all taxes. He then joined Republican ranks. Formation of Think-TanksThe Koch brothers have had a hand in the formation of the present-day versions of the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity.
I Bet You Didn’t Know… Near-Fatal Accident In 1991, David was on USAir Flight 1493 when it collided with commuter plane shortly after landing at the Los Angeles International Airport. In total, 35 people loss their lives in the accident, and David was one of the only survivors from the first-class cabin.
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