The Other Koch Brother

In the shadow of his brothers' Tea Party fame, Bill Koch seems almost like a normal billionaire.

Two mansions, two miles apart, spark intrigue in Palm Beach, Florida. The first, on the northern end of the oceanfront street nicknamed Billionaire's Row, is 30,000 square feet of arched windows and red, Spanish-tile roof, a villa that includes a ballroom where flappers danced and sipped moonshine in the 1920s.

This is David Koch's vacation home. The billionaire oil baron, along with his brother Charles, has gained recent notoriety as the sugar daddy of the Tea Party. In 1979, David Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket, and he and Charles have since given more than $100 million to right-wing causes and organizations, according to a 2010 New Yorker profile that exposed their tremendous influence in politics. David lives in New York City and winters in Palm Beach.

The second mansion is a short drive south on Billionaire's Row, a narrow strip of asphalt that buffers colossal wealth from the ocean. With an open driveway and a generous front lawn, this house bears little resemblance to its neighbor up the road. The original historic villa was leveled, replaced by a 42,000-square-foot mansion built in efficient Colonial style, with square windows, gray peaked roofs, and columns framing the front door. The pool is a long rectangle, and the backyard stretches all the way west to the Intracoastal Waterway. Inside, prized artwork graces the walls, and millions of dollars worth of wine cools in the cellar.

PRNewsFoto/Palm Beach High School Foundation, Kim Sargent; © Sargent Photography
Bill Koch celebrates the America’s Cup victory in San Diego.
Portofsandiego.org
Bill Koch celebrates the America’s Cup victory in San Diego.

For two decades, the owner of this $25.9 million mansion didn't speak to the owner of the first. He is David Koch's twin brother, William "Bill" Koch. A feud over the family business kept the brothers warring in court for years. Bill, 71, a rumpled and white-haired chemical engineer, was labeled in the press as the black sheep of the family. One of the Forbes 400 richest people in the world and the second-richest man in Florida, he made headlines for his salacious romantic affairs and his penchant for suing his enemies, and for burning cash on historic wine bottles and a $2 million photo of Billy the Kid.

He also earned the wrath of environmentalists. A mine owned by his energy company, Oxbow, was the site of two of the three coal-mining deaths in Colorado in the past 11 years. Bill Koch poured millions of dollars into fighting America's first offshore wind farm in Massachusetts, and is now angling to take over 1,800 acres of federal land in Colorado for his private ranch.

But now that Charles and David are alternately reviled and admired for their Tea Party ties, "Wild Bill" Koch has been cast in a peculiar new role: the good brother.

He donates tens of thousands of dollars to mainstream Republican candidates such as John McCain and Mitt Romney, but doesn't publicize his opposition to Barack Obama. Rather than fund Tea Party groups, he gives money to impoverished kids in Palm Beach County and to hospitals and schools in Colorado, where he has another home. In September, he will open a private high school in West Palm Beach, Oxbridge Academy. "Bill Koch isn't Charles Koch and he isn't David Koch," says his spokesman, Brad Goldstein. "He's not his brother's keeper."

Even as a child, Bill Koch lived in his brothers' shadow. Of the four Koch boys—David, Bill, Charles, and the eldest, Frederick—Bill was the "family nerd," he once told the New York Times Magazine, which profiled the family after their legal battle in 1986. Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, Bill wasn't as skilled at basketball as Charles and David. Although he's six foot four, he was smaller than them. They would play together, but exclude him.

By the time Bill was six, he was so resentful of Charles that his mom said they had to send the 11-year-old Charles to boarding school. "We had to get Charles away because of the terrible jealousy that was consuming Billy," Mary Koch told the Times. "Billy had always been too emotional."

Emotionalism was not prized in the Koch family. The boys' father, Fred C. Koch, was a hard-nosed "monarch," a family friend told Fortune magazine. Not wanting his sons to become pampered rich kids, he put them to work on the family cattle ranches in the summers. He was a self-made man. His dad—Bill's grandfather—ran a small-town newspaper in Texas. When Fred wanted to study chemical engineering, a local businessman helped pay his tuition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Goldstein says—a gift that would later inspire Bill's own school philanthropy.

In the 1920s, Fred Koch launched an engineering company in Wichita, and invented a refining process that increased the amount of gasoline produced from crude oil. When competing oil companies sued him for patent infringement, he moved to the Soviet Union to build oil refineries under Stalin. Watching colleagues be killed in the dictator's purges, Koch was horrified. By the time he returned to Kansas to expand his business and started a family, he was staunchly anti-Communist. Fred Koch became a founding member of the hard-right John Birch Society and imbued all of his sons with a strong distaste for government.

Bill attended high school at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, then joined Charles and David at M.I.T., dutifully following in their dad's footsteps. Bill eventually earned a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Frederick Koch studied English and drama at Harvard and Yale and grew up to become a reclusive art collector who buys European castles, including estates in Monaco and London.

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20 comments
tcatjohnson
tcatjohnson

Sounds like all three Koch brothers need a visit from the Red Brigades. 

tcatjohnson
tcatjohnson

Sounds like pretty much the same flavor of asshole to me...

Rich
Rich

"he's not his brother's keeper" says his spokesman. pretty much sums up the koch brothers' philosophy of life.

Rhonda Mike
Rhonda Mike

I personally do not think it told of the bad things they all do, but they all DO have good points too.... I seem to like the "black sheep" of the family Bill best..(perhaps I can relate) They are an interesting family..... I pray that their eyes will be opened and see the need to pay tax ......Everyone needs health care... everyone needs a job that pays enough to go back and forth. The unions are needed, as they help to make things better for employees etc....We do need free schools and colleges for ALL who chose to go...

Emilio Lizardo
Emilio Lizardo

You want to know how 400 families own as much of American assets as the poorest 150 million Americans, they manipulated the government to help transfer that wealth.

The direct consequence is that overall demand has dropped through the floor. We've just recreated the great depression.

LadyKisha
LadyKisha

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my girl-friend loves her Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, BidsBit.com

keiraKnightly
keiraKnightly

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my girl-friend loves her Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, BidsBit.com

Tommy Tank
Tommy Tank

Perhaps the reporter might have contacted some of the actual people who opposed the sweetheart land deal, that would close public access and which was specifically kept public to provide such.

Or looked into the lies and slander being published in ads weekly by an astroturf group run out of a Denver law firm?

One-sided fluff piece. Disappointing

Barack
Barack

"know that your most worthy of efforts will be scorned by your peers for it is they who suffer when you excel. Should your actions and ambitions threaten them not, you are simply striving towards the insignificant."

We are all born into this world and must make tough decisions. I think protesting Sci-Fi wind farms off the coast of Mass. is a good protest. Too often we here of these grand ideas to save the planet. I would like to track how much the public will pay for these fans and how much the government will receive as their kick back. Fans off the coast of Mass. saving the planet is like building a sling shot on the coast of California to fly people to China without burning fuel. What a joke.

And how many people die every year in Massachusetts building Large Fans? I hope no more than two. This just in: Digging for coal is dangerous. It's not for everyone. Maybe we should stop using coal as a society for a year and see how many lives are saved. From my understanding, coal miners continue showing up for work every morning knowing what the dangers are.

Why do media outlets and activists want to make the public feel as though they are victims and Billionaire's responsible for a sliver of American independence from foreign energy suppliers are the villains? I'm lost. The facts are in and our neighbors to the South are prospering because of the tax cuts given to big businesses choosing to relocate and this is how we speak of the ones trying to keep their business here in our Country? So strange.

jenniferLy
jenniferLy

I just paíd $20.87 for an íPad 2.64GB and my boyfriend loves his Panasoníc Lumíx GF 1 Cámera that we got for $38.79 there arriving tomorrow by UP S.I will never pay such expensive retail príces in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LCD T V to my boss for $657 which only cost me $62.81 to buy.Here is the website we use to get it all from : http://BidsBit.com

orwellsworstnightmare
orwellsworstnightmare

He is much less offensive than his brothers, David H. and Charles T. Koch. Compared to them, he is almost a class act. He is, however, still a Koch.

Nancy Bulger
Nancy Bulger

It's unfortunate that Bill Koch had a difficult childhood. Many of us would also like to discuss ours, but moreso, we are trying to live well now, and not at the expense of polluters who would sacrifice our best interest to their fortune. Cape Wind is not the toy protest of Bill Koch, nor should their spokesman or the goal of their renewable energy project receive any less credit than Bill's donations to various causes, which in no way make up for the deaths by coal emissions that his huge industry causes. Bill should turn his various donations and do-good philanthopy into investment in technologies like offshore wind. This would be a great way to make up for a past. Maybe all his ex-wives and girlfriends would like him better too.

Zero Emissions
Zero Emissions

Why doesn't Bill Koch fund some pump out stations in every Nantucket Sound port to stop the raw sewerage from ferry boats and recreational boaters from fouling it? There are 3 million ferry passengers using the Sound yearly and 5 million private boaters. I live on Nantucket Island and think about pollution every time I jump in the water. Yuk! Wind turbines are pollution free and don't use water or any fossil fuels during operation. Just think of all the fish larve that are killed every year at the Mirant Power Station on the Cape Cod Canal by the plant's cooling system. Cape Wind is going to happen: it is just a question of time. No power plant in our nation's history has ever been more closely reviewed. The stack of paper is literally about 9 feet tall! I can't wait to sail amongst those graceful giants on a boat and marvel at them.

Clean Air Lover
Clean Air Lover

Koch has donated far more than the 1.5 million to the opposition group to Cape Wind reported in this article and he used his dirty energy company, Oxbow, to funnel nearly one million in lobbying expenses against Cape Wind, he also directly pays the salary of the opposition group's CEO according to their Form 990 filed with the IRS.

tomdurk
tomdurk

So is it good that he is not quite as slimy as his brothers? It is good that his astroturf party is not the Tea Party. But a 42,000 foot house? Taking 18,999 acres of federal property for a private ranch? He also inherited billions, continues to pollute in his oil & coke industries (with huge externalities), and has thrown significant money into starting a highly litigious astroturf group (The Alliance to Protect Our View) fighting against Cape Wind.

Womanphoenix
Womanphoenix

"One-sided fluff piece"? You must think that domestic-abuse allegations (or dumping renewables for coal) reflect well on a man.

Palin
Palin

Sorry, dude, but Cape Wind's going to do just.fine: http://www.renewableenergyworl...

In fact, the only thing its well-heeled NIMBY foes can say about it now is that it won't be the first US offshore wind project -- that honor may well go to a Texas project that is being pushed to completion, spurred on by Cape Wind's success over the billionaire oil trustafarians and old-money dynasties that opposed it.

Emilio Lizardo
Emilio Lizardo

Domestic abuse allegations are a staple of divorce. In this case worth 16 mil. 70% of domestic abuse is initiated by the woman. And it's mom that's most likely to harm the kids. DV is a scam issue.

Yea, it's a fluff piece, but hey, it's the 'Voice'.

 
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