The Koch Brothers: America's Most Controversial Manufacturers

Are Charles and David Koch the most famous manufacturers in the United States? If not, then they are certainly the most controversial.

The two brothers control Koch Industries, Inc, the second largest private company in the United States with estimated annual revenue of $115 billion. If it were a public company, it would rank number 10 on the IW 500. The company, based in Wichita, Kan., employs 60,000 in the U.S., another 40,000 outside the country and operates in 60 countries.

Key to Koch Industries' success, say its leaders, is Market-Based Management, a philosophy developed by CEO Charles Koch. In a 2009 interview with the American Journal of Business, Koch explained that MBM "provides a framework for creating value for business, customers and society" by applying principles such as integrity, compliance with all laws and regulations, and Principled Entrepreneurship, which Koch defines as applying "the judgment, responsibility, initiative, economic and critical thinking skills, and sense of urgency necessary to generate the greatest contribution, consistent with the company’s risk philosophy." Koch said the company also benefits by reinvesting 90% of its earnings to foster long-term growth.

If the Kochs have been fabulously successful in business (their worth is estimated by Forbes at $80 billion), it is their forays into politics that have got them the most attention. The brothers have been strong advocates of free-market economics, reduced government regulation and fiscal conservatism. In the 2012 election, a network of Super PACs and other groups backed by the Koch brothers raised an estimated $407 million to elect Mitt Romney and other Republican candidates.

Here is a look at Koch Industries, the economic powerhouse they have built, as well as some of their wide-ranging political and charitable activies, and some of the reaction their activities has engendered.

More IW Galleries

Welcome to the Future: Aeromobil's Flying Car is Ready for Takeoff

Masters of Innovation: IndustryWeek's Technology Leaders of the Year

Faces of Manufacturing: For the Love of Industry

The Making of Steel

Warren Buffet's World of Manufacturing


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.