Charles Koch and David Koch, two brothers who believed in the doctrine of free will, were the descendants of a group of Dutch immigrants who settled in the small Texas town of Quanah in 1888. They inherited a medium-sized oil refining company founded by their father, Fred Koch, and eventually built it into the second largest private company in the United States, with annual revenues of $100 billion. The company is not only involved in chemicals and refining, but is also owned by Georgia Pacific, the world's second largest paper company.
Born on 1 November 1935, Charles was the second child in his family and, much like his father, was the most loved and valued. Charles was not a good student as a child, but his grades soared and he went on to attend his father's alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he earned a bachelor's degree in general engineering at the age of 22, followed by two master's degrees in nuclear engineering and chemical engineering. After graduating, Charles worked for two years at the prestigious Arthur D. Little management consulting firm before being recalled to his own company by his father. Fred was determined to get the second son to take over the family business and even said he would sell the company if Charles did not return to work.
Charles did not fail to live up to his father's trust. Before he returned to Koch, Koch's business in Europe was in serious trouble, with sales plummeting and barely making ends meet. Charles' first order of business on taking over was to clean up this mess. He went to Europe himself and opened a large number of production sites there, as well as broadening the existing sales channels and entering the market for other related products, and these strategies were successful.
Charles then set about developing Koch's biggest business at the time - crude oil gathering. He bought a large number of trucks and freight companies, as well as building and buying pipelines. Fred was mostly supportive of Charles' approach, although Fred was relatively conservative due to his age and health. On one occasion, on the eve of Fred's upcoming trip abroad, Charles offered to buy two crude oil freight companies in North Dakota, and Fred agreed to buy only one. But as soon as he departed, Charles immediately bought both companies. Fred was furious when he learned of this, but eventually forgave Charles, as the two purchases did bring high returns to the company. Later, Fred completely let go of the company to the enterprising son and told him, "Do whatever you want as long as you don't sell the company."
In 1963, Charles was appointed President of Koch Engineering, and when Fred died of a heart attack in 1967, Charles succeeded his father as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of the company.
Koch Industries is the world's second largest privately held company after Cargill in the United States and the largest unlisted company in the world, with operations in oil, energy, chemicals and timber. The Koch brothers own refineries in Alaska, Texas, Minnesota and elsewhere, which have brought them a steady stream of wealth.