Koch kōk [key], family of American industrialists and philanthropists.

Fred Chase Koch, 1900–1967, b. Quanah, Tex., grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1922, was a Wichita, Kans., entrepreneur and businessman. He cofounded an engineering firm that developed (1927) an improved method for thermal cracking, a process for converting heavy oil into gasoline. After being sued by the major oil companies for patent infringement, the company set up refineries abroad, including in the USSR, an experience that made him an outspoken critic of Communism. In 1940 he cofounded Wood River Oil and Refining Company, which eventually became Koch Industries. Over the years the company expanded into lumber, paper, fertilizer, real estate, oil pipelines, textiles, electronic components, ethanol, and financial services, with facilities throughout the world. Koch was a founding member of the John Birch Society and wrote A Businessman Looks at Communism (1960).

His eldest son, Frederick Robinson Koch, 1933–2020, b. Wichita, grad. Harvard, 1955, Yale School of Drama, 1961, served in the navy after graduating from Harvard and then devoted himself to the collecting of art, rare books and manuscripts, and photography. Through his Frederick R. Koch Foundation, he donated important works to major museums and universities and restored historic properties in the United States and Europe; he also supported the performing arts.

The second son, Charles de Ganahl Koch, 1935–, b. Wichita, grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S., 1957, M.S. 1958, 1960), joined his father's firm in 1961, becoming chairman and CEO (1967) following his father's death. The company was renamed Koch Industries in 1968. A champion of libertarian causes, he was a cofounder (1977) of the Cato Institute and wrote The Science of Success: How Market-Based Management Built the World's Largest Private Company (2007). He also is a supporter of and major financial contributor to many conservative and libertarian politicians and causes, including the Tea Party movement.

His brother David Hamilton Koch, 1940–2019, b. Wichita, grad. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S., 1962, M.S., 1963), joined the family business in 1970. He held various company positions, ultimately serving as chairman and CEO of the Koch Chemical Technology Group subsidiary and also executive vice president of Koch Industries until 2018. He ran for vice president on the Libertarian party ticket in 1980. Recipients of his many philanthropic donations included Lincoln Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and the American Museum of Natural History.

David's twin, William Ingraham Koch, 1940–, b. Wichita, D.Sc. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1971, worked for Koch Industries until 1980, when he was ousted after trying to take control of the company. In 1983 he and Frederick sold their interest in the company to Charles and David, and he then founded the privately held Oxbow Group, focused on energy resource development and marketing. His yacht America won the 1992 America's Cup.

See D. Schulman, Sons of Wichita (2014); J. Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016); C. Leonard, Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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