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Kochland : The Secret History of Koch…
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Kochland : The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in… (original 2019; edition 2019)

by Christopher Leonard

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1668139,364 (4.02)2
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 * WINNER OF THE J ANTHONY LUKAS WORK-IN-PROGRESS AWARD * FINANCIAL TIMES' BEST BOOKS OF 2019 * NPR FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2019 * FINALIST FOR THE FINACIAL TIMES/MCKINSEY BUSINESS BOOK OF 2019 * KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOKS OF 2019 * SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOKS OF 2019 "Superb...Among the best books ever written about an American corporation." --Bryan Burrough, The New York Times Book Review Just as Steve Coll told the story of globalization through ExxonMobil and Andrew Ross Sorkin told the story of Wall Street excess through Too Big to Fail, Christopher Leonard's Kochland uses the extraordinary account of how one of the biggest private companies in the world grew to be that big to tell the story of modern corporate America. The annual revenue of Koch Industries is bigger than that of Goldman Sachs, Facebook, and US Steel combined. Koch is everywhere: from the fertilizers that make our food to the chemicals that make our pipes to the synthetics that make our carpets and diapers to the Wall Street trading in all these commodities. But few people know much about Koch Industries and that's because the billionaire Koch brothers have wanted it that way. For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view toward very, very long-term profits. He's a genius businessman: patient with earnings, able to learn from his mistakes, determined that his employees develop a reverence for free-market ruthlessness, and a master disrupter. These strategies made him and his brother David together richer than Bill Gates. But there's another side to this story. If you want to understand how we killed the unions in this country, how we widened the income divide, stalled progress on climate change, and how our corporations bought the influence industry, all you have to do is read this book. Seven years in the making, Kochland "is a dazzling feat of investigative reporting and epic narrative writing, a tour de force that takes the reader deep inside the rise of a vastly powerful family corporation that has come to influence American workers, markets, elections, and the very ideas debated in our public square. Leonard's work is fair and meticulous, even as it reveals the Kochs as industrial Citizens Kane of our time" (Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Private Empire).… (more)
Member:btadie
Title:Kochland : The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America
Authors:Christopher Leonard
Info:[S.l.] : Simon and Schuster, 2019.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:to-read

Work Information

Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America by Christopher Leonard (2019)

  1. 10
    Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: This book provides the full account of an event mentioned in passing in Dark Money: the allegation of stealing oil from Native American reservations and criminal investigation from the 1980s.
  2. 00
    Meet Charles Koch's Brain by Mark Ames (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Kochland has one glaring omission and that is glossing over Charles association with Murray Rothbard and fringe elements of the rightwing movement. You can't refer frequently to the Cato Institute running interference for Koch Industries and then only on page 500 mention it was co-founded with Murray Rothbard. This little essay sheds some light on this bit of history.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
Kochland is a thoroughly researched, extensive history of Koch Industries, which is a new angle in the slightly crowded genre of "how the Koch brothers fucked everything up for the rest of us," so it's worth a read if that's a subject that you're interested in. However, I found the structure very frustrating. It's constantly jumping around between topics and times, so I would get invested in learning what the outcome of a particular situation was and would then have to sit through five chapters about other stuff before finally getting the resolution, at which point I'd forgotten some of the details from the first chapter about the thing and would have to page back to look at it again. Also, Part II is almost entirely about commodities trading and although the author is trying very, very hard to make it interesting, there's only so much you can do to make that appeal to general audiences.

I was also extremely disappointed to see a book from one of the big publishers with multiple spelling errors. It may be that these were only in the ebook version, but it does feel like part of a trend of sloppily edited books that I've been noticing in the past several years, across genres and publishers. ( )
  xenoglossy | Aug 17, 2022 |
The anecdotes were fun, but the book was structured poorly and not edited well. I didn't get as good a sense of Koch Industry's driving principles as I wanted to get, or how Koch Industries fits into the overall fabric of companies in the time period. Leonard concentrated mainly on the "things that happened", but there wasn't much of a thesis, it was just like a diary. I guess thats what I signed up for though. ( )
  4dahalibut | Dec 13, 2020 |
This is a long book - the hardcover edition runs 574 pages, while the audiobook (which I listened to) is over 23 hours long. It tells the story of the rise of Koch Industries.

To tell the story of the growth of Koch Industries, the author goes into many individual tales to illustrate the turns in that growth. As someone who spent 30 years working in corporate America, in Fortune 500 manufacturing companies, there were many many things discussed that are similar to what I saw at the companies I have worked with. The fixation on Edward Deming and his quality / continuous improvement practices are part of the foundation of Lean Manufacturing which is very common throughout industry. When the company made mistakes they learned from them and modified their approach to the benefit of the corporation - for example, when early emphasis on productivity and continuous improvement led the company into quality and environmental issues that garnered negative attention and large regulatory fines, Koch shifted to a "100% compliant, 100% of the time" approach to keep the company's reputation intact and to keep regulatory issues at bay. Again not an uncommon story across industry. Even the much discussed Koch "market based management" seems to be an amalgam of America's long-running push for entrepreneurialism, coupled with reliance on activity based costing within a corporate setting, designed to make managers feel more like business owners. This approach has been quite common in corporate America since the late 70s.

What's different is Charles Koch. He kept his company private and kept the profits plowed back into the company early on to ensure growth. He emphasized growth and pursued a "trader's philosophy" of seeking out and exploiting "holes" in markets where his firm with it's private knowledge of it's own activity could leverage those opportunities. The author makes the case that Koch was an early entrant into the mergers and acquisitions game and that as a private company willing to play "the long game" they had distinct advantages in that game. All of these things set Koch Industries apart and played a role in contributing to it's success.

What's really different about Charles Koch are his corporate-libertarian beliefs, and the political power he has amassed to pursue those beliefs, which he has done with much success. This story is told at the very end of the book and the story is one of a methodical concentration of political power that is quite chilling.

While the book is clearly well researched and holds your attention throughout I gave it three stars because I think it could have been just as effective without being as long. I learned alot about Koch Industries and Charles Koch that I didn't know, and I think the book is worth reading. Just be ready to invest the time into it. ( )
  stevesbookstuff | Nov 7, 2020 |
¿¿¿¿Story of the Koch brothers and their business. Tells vivid stories about Paulson who does the river bend refinery negotiation for the Kochs, and a variety of corporate thugs who do the first time negotiation with a gp warehousing operation. Koch wins both events handily. ( )
  annbury | Jul 26, 2020 |
I lived in Wichita, KS for three years in the late 1950s. I think I recall that Fred Koch the founder of Koch Industries had an office building on Douglas street in downtown Wichita. Fred was one of the founders of the John Birch Society. The book is about his children: Fred, Charles, William and David. Son, Charles became the CEO of the privately held, Koch Industries and very active in political action organizations such as Americans for Posterity. I enjoyed reading this 574 page book and learning about the influence of the Koch family on our country. ( )
  MrDickie | Feb 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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This books is for my mother, Victoria Bright Leonard, who taught me to think about the other person. Thank you.
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On May 18, 1981, four Wall St bankers travelled to Wichita, Kansas.
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In private, Koch Industries officials were even more dismissive of the science around climate change. One former senior Koch Industries executive, a trained scientist who only made business decisions after first analysing reams of data, explained that he believed global warming was a hoax invented by liberal politicians who sought to use the fiction as a way to unite the populace against an invented enemy. After the fall of the Soviet Empire in 1991, this executive explained, American elites needed a new, all-encompassing enemy with which to frighten the masses, and so they invented one with global warming. All the data on atmospheric carbon levels and rising temperatures were part of this conspiracy, the executive said.
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2019 * WINNER OF THE J ANTHONY LUKAS WORK-IN-PROGRESS AWARD * FINANCIAL TIMES' BEST BOOKS OF 2019 * NPR FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2019 * FINALIST FOR THE FINACIAL TIMES/MCKINSEY BUSINESS BOOK OF 2019 * KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOKS OF 2019 * SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL BEST BOOKS OF 2019 "Superb...Among the best books ever written about an American corporation." --Bryan Burrough, The New York Times Book Review Just as Steve Coll told the story of globalization through ExxonMobil and Andrew Ross Sorkin told the story of Wall Street excess through Too Big to Fail, Christopher Leonard's Kochland uses the extraordinary account of how one of the biggest private companies in the world grew to be that big to tell the story of modern corporate America. The annual revenue of Koch Industries is bigger than that of Goldman Sachs, Facebook, and US Steel combined. Koch is everywhere: from the fertilizers that make our food to the chemicals that make our pipes to the synthetics that make our carpets and diapers to the Wall Street trading in all these commodities. But few people know much about Koch Industries and that's because the billionaire Koch brothers have wanted it that way. For five decades, CEO Charles Koch has kept Koch Industries quietly operating in deepest secrecy, with a view toward very, very long-term profits. He's a genius businessman: patient with earnings, able to learn from his mistakes, determined that his employees develop a reverence for free-market ruthlessness, and a master disrupter. These strategies made him and his brother David together richer than Bill Gates. But there's another side to this story. If you want to understand how we killed the unions in this country, how we widened the income divide, stalled progress on climate change, and how our corporations bought the influence industry, all you have to do is read this book. Seven years in the making, Kochland "is a dazzling feat of investigative reporting and epic narrative writing, a tour de force that takes the reader deep inside the rise of a vastly powerful family corporation that has come to influence American workers, markets, elections, and the very ideas debated in our public square. Leonard's work is fair and meticulous, even as it reveals the Kochs as industrial Citizens Kane of our time" (Steve Coll, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Private Empire).

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