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 U.S. 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 want 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 have 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 reads like a true-life thriller, with larger-than-life characters driving the battles on every page. The book tells the ambitious tale of how one private company consolidated power over half a century—and how in doing so, it helped transform capitalism into something that feels deeply alienating to many Americans today.
Christopher Leonard is a business reporter whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, and Bloomberg Businessweek. He is the author of The Meat Racket and Kochland, which won the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.
“It completely upends our understanding of what disruption really is. We think disruption happens in Silicon Valley, but what Silicon Valley does is nothing compared to the very profitable havoc that Koch has created.” —Priscilla P., VP, Executive Editor, on Kochland
“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
“Leonard’s visionary, decade-spanning, and heart-rending investigation into the Koch Empire is indispensable not just for understanding the rise of corporate power in America, but for understanding America itself. Kochland will take its place alongside Chernow’s Titan and Coll’s Private Empire as one of the great accounts of American capitalism.” — Jesse Eisinger, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Chickenshit Club
“A Robert Caro-like narrative of business and political power with a brilliant, ruthless, and fascinating monopolist at its center. Leonard devoted eight years to this gem of a book, seeking to understand the mysterious Charles Koch and the Goliath he has taken a half century to construct.” — Ken Auletta, New York Times bestselling author of Googled
“With deep reporting and narrative flair, Leonard has rendered a revealing portrait of the Koch family as ruthless businessmen and savvy political operatives who quietly built an empire and defined the face of American capitalism and its hold on Washington over the last fifty years.” — William Cohan, New York Times bestselling author of House of Cards
“Those who believe in unfettered free-market capitalism will find much to feast on in Kochland, while those concerned with the corrosive effects of growth at all costs will find more than enough to gorge on as well. But both sides should be able to agree on what this story is really about, which is power—and a terrifying amount of it.” — Duff McDonald, New York Times bestselling author of The Firm
“Leonard has produced a hugely readable, entirely original, magisterial work on one of the most important subjects of our time — the weirdly cultish, terrifyingly successful empire built all-but invisibly by the billionaire sphinx Charles Koch.” — Steve LeVine, author of The Oil and the Glory