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Sons of Wichita

Now a New York Times Best Seller!

Read excerpts from Sons of Wichita in Vanity Fair and Mother Jones.

Not long after the 1967 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 seems now to be a large sum of money,” Fred Koch cautioned. “It may be either 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. 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, tied for 6th on Forbes’s annual list of the world’s billionaires with fortunes estimated at $40 billion apiece.

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 sprawling political machine that wields considerable power 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.

Cast out of the family company following a dramatic boardroom coup attempt, Bill 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 from Manhattan’s Upper East Side to France’s Côte d’Azur.

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 and thousands of pages of never-before-seen documents, Sons of Wichita is the first major biography about this wealthy and powerful family—warts and all.