Sons of Wichita

  • by Daniel Schulman
  • Narrated by Allen O'Reilly
  • 12 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Interesting family

I could hardly stop listening; the author grabbed my attention and held it all the way to the end of the book. It is amazing how much information Daniel Schulman has been able to gather about the Koch family, from public records, newspaper reports and court documents. The family refused to be interviewed for the book. Schulman starts with Fred Koch who was born in 1900 and grew up in Quanah, Texas, son of a Dutch immigrant. His father was a printer who brought a printing press to Quanah and established a newspaper. Fred worked at various jobs and worked his way through school. He graduated for M.I.T. in engineering. He invested three hundred dollars and started a company providing the needs of oil refineries. He built this into a multi-million dollar company. He married a Kansas City debutant Mary Robinson. They had four sons Frederick, Charles, twins David and William. Fred worked the boys hard and had the boys compete against each other. They attended boarding schools and M.I.T. except Frederick who attended Harvard with a degree in the arts. Fred was a founding member of the John Birch Society. He taught Charles his political view point but Charles eventually became a member of Libertarian party. Frederick never worked in the company business and had very little to do with the family. He lived in New York City or London restoring old historical buildings, and is a collector and patron of the arts. Charles, David and Bill worked in the company until Bill broke away and brought many lawsuits against the family. Bill built his own engineering company which is now a multi-billion dollar business. Charles and David took the business over from the father and built it into a multi-billion dollar business. Schulman had done a good job assembling everything known about the Koch’s into a single straight forward, understandable account. The author leaves out no confirmable damming detail particularly about the Koch Industries indifference to environmental and safety matters. The Koch’s Libertarian belief about small or no government appeared to have made them think they did not have to adhere to laws that interfered with their business. After they lost the lawsuits from the EPA they did change the way they ran the company and started to adhere to all laws. Schulman interviewed employees to gather information about Charles’s “Market Based Management” system. The author points out that the Koch’s donate not only to the Republican Party but also to selected Democrats as well. The brothers individually and with the Family Foundation donate heavily to the arts and medical research. I felt the author presented a well balanced, well researched report about the Koch family. Allen O’Reilly did a good job narrating the book.
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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Early Life Details OK but Not Much on the Business

The most interesting part of this book was hearing about the Koch Brothers' father and their upbringing. Unfortunately, so much of the focus is on the scandalous in-fighting that there is very little time spent on the business and the intelligence and drive of Charles and David. While I learned a few interesting factoids about the brothers, it got tiresome listening to fight after fight, lawsuit after lawsuit, family vs. family.
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- KP

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-20-2014
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio