Shortlisted for the 2019 Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year.
The extraordinary account of how the secretive Koch Industries became one of the largest private companies in the world.
Koch Industries, the sprawling industrial conglomerate owned by Charles and David Koch, specializes in the kinds of stunningly profitable businesses that undergird every aspect of modern life: it controls the nitrogen fertilizer that puts food on your table, the fibres in your clothes, the building materials that make your homes and offices, and the microchips that drive your life online.
For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view towards very, very long-term profits. He’s a brilliant businessman: patient with earnings, able to learn from his mistakes, determined that his employees develop a reverence for free-market ruthlessness, and a master disruptor.
Seven years in the making, Kochland tells the ambitious tale of how one private company consolidated power over half a century – and, in doing so, helped transform capitalism into something that feels deeply alienating to many Americans today.
American capitalism at its most successful and domineering is at the center of this sweeping history of a much-vilified company. Business journalist Leonard (The Meat Racket) recounts the 50-year growth of Koch Industries, a privately held, infamously secretive conglomerate with interests in oil refineries, pipelines, lumber, commodities trading, fertilizer, and greeting cards under CEO Charles Koch, whose libertarian ideology and political donations make him a godfather of the Republican right. Leonard paints Koch as a brilliant businessman whose fanatically entrepreneurial company employees fervidly embrace his "market-based management" philosophy thrives on turning underperforming assets into moneymakers. He also probes a very seamy underbelly: an oil-theft scandal and illegal dumping of toxins (the company has since cleaned up its act, Leonard notes), a penchant for gaming government regulations while denouncing the regulatory state, and heavy-handed lobbying and political organizing to stymie climate change legislation. The company's ruthlessness is spotlighted in his accounts of Koch's sometimes violent battles with unions; Leonard profiles workers whose wages and security dwindled while computerized regimentation and staffing cuts made their jobs grueling and unsafe. Leonard's superb investigations and even-handed, clear-eyed reportage stand out.