Charles Koch is a billionaire many times over -- and a much-discussed figure in the world of business and political funding. This morning he's making a rare television appearance answering questions from our Anthony Mason:
When Charles Koch took over the family business nearly half a century ago, he had a vision for the oil company his father founded: "I worked out, okay, how much can we grow over a period of time? And projected that out through my life. And two years ago, we were 70 times that amount."
Koch industries, headquartered in a sprawling glass-and-granite campus in Wichita, is now the second-largest private company in the country. With more than 100,000 employees worldwide, the conglomerate refines up to 600,000 barrels of oil a day and produces everything from Stainmaster carpets to electronic components for smartphones.
Charles and his brother, David, own 84 percent of Koch Industries. Forbes estimates their net worth at nearly $43 billion each.
But the sixth-wealthiest man in the country still gets his lunch every day at the company cafeteria, although it's a bit more challenging after recent foot surgery. The 79-year-old CEO is at his desk each morning at 7:15 a.m., under the watchful eye of the family patriarch: "That's my Dad," Charles said.
Fred Koch made his first fortune building refineries for Stalin's Soviet Union, and became a fervent anti-Communist. In his office, Charles keeps a framed letter Fred wrote to his first two sons, when he took out an insurance policy for them: "'If you choose to let this money destroy your initiative and independence, then it will be a curse to you and my action in giving it to you will have been a mistake.' So that's the way he was."
Koch also inherited his father's distrust of big government, and he's used his fortune to bankroll a network of conservative groups that helped give birth to the Tea Party movement. That's made this billionaire and his brother among the most vilified men in American politics.
Koch has become a codeword for corporate villainy among Democrats, like Senator Harry Reid:
"The Koch Brothers and other money interests are influencing the political process for their own benefit. They are trying to buy America, and it's time that the American people spoke out against this terrible dishonesty of these two brothers who are about as un-American as anyone that I can imagine,"
According to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, some 53,000 attack ads mentioned the Koch Brothers in the last election cycle.
- Harry Reid: Republicans are "addicted to Koch" (CBS News, 03/04/14)
"Like Harry Truman said, if you can't stand the heat, don't go in the kitchen," said Koch.
"But it's got to be unnerving on some level?"
"I knew I'd get heat. But I didn't know it'd be this vicious and this dishonest."
But Koch is now trying to give the family name an image makeover. The company has launched a national ad campaign: "We Are Koch."
And in a new book, "Good Profit," Koch lays out the market-based management philosophy that drove his company's phenomenal success, and writes about the values that drive him -- personally and politically.
One of four Koch brothers, Charles went to MIT, like his father, but not before bouncing around eight different schools.
Mason asked, "What would you say the source of your rebelliousness was?"
"I'm kind of a contrarian, as you probably know from all the different things I do. I do things differently than other people -- 'What are you doing that for? You're just creating trouble for yourself!'"
The notoriously private billionaire agreed to his first in-depth TV interview at his Wichita home, where Mason also met Liz, Charles' wife of 42 years.