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Publisher's Summary

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 the biggest private company 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 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 listen to this audiobook.

Seven years in the making, Kochland comes across like a true-life thriller, with larger-than-life characters driving the battles at every moment. The audiobook 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.

©2019 Christopher Leonard (P)2019 Simon & Schuster Audio

Critic Reviews

"Business reporter Christopher Leonard's emphatic, decade-long investigative research has yielded an in-depth examination of the secretive privately held Wichita-based Koch Industries. Jacques Roy provides a masterful narration.... [His] low-key professorial tone eases the listener through a highly complex market-based business portrait. It would be challenging to find a clearer discussion of how dark money may wield profound influence on American politics." (AudioFile Magazine)

“Deeply and authoritatively reported...[Kochland] marshals a huge amount of information and uses it to help solve two enduring mysteries: how the Kochs got so rich, and how they used that fortune to buy off American action on climate change.” (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker)

“Superb.... Among the best books ever written about an American corporation.... Not since Andrew Ross Sorkin’s landmark Too Big to Fail (2009) have I said this about a book, but Kochland warrants it: If you’re in business, this is something you need to read.” (Bryan Burrough, The New York Times Book Review

What listeners say about Kochland

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A must read

If you want to glimpse into the machinations of large business interests and operations.. This book is a truly stunning and mind-blowing insight and accounts. The author does a fantastic job at providing the reader with clear details and the breath of a vast inter-workings of Koch industries. Investigational journalism at its best.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating and enraging

The book highlights the people surrounding Koch and includes vignettes on failures as well as the many successes of Koch Industries. As a businessman, there’s no doubt that Charles Koch is a master at making money - regardless of the cost to society. The author also masterfully illustrates the destruction of American democracy by this billionaire activist and serves as a warning of what could come if it continues unchecked.

2 people found this helpful

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An amazing deep dive into Koch Industries!

Christopher Leonard has written an amazing analysis of not just the operations of Koch Industries but of the man that turned a conglomerate of unrelated businesses into a powerhouse of industry. Leonard’s writing is perfectly translated by the narrator into a gripping and fascinating story that never felt long or drawn out!

2 people found this helpful

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An anti-capitalism treatise

Very little on the value creation by the company. If you wanted to understand more about Charles Koch's management practices and a detailed description of the company's expansion and acquisitions, you will be disappointed. If you wanted to understand more about Market Based Management, you will be very disappointed. The author mocks the practice and reduces it to a justification to being greedy.

The book tends to focus only on very minute details of the enterprise to build a narrative consistent with the author's progressive agenda. Entrepreneurs will be disappointed by this book.

Many chapters on the one task of measuring oil by a select number of employees. This is one out of hundred millions of tasks performed by Koch Industries' employees. This is a sort of smoking gun example of corruption at the company, according to the author. In reality, every good business manager probably relates to the Koch Industries' practices as sound. It shows that the author has no real world work experience outside journalism.

Many chapters on Koch's negotiations with Unions - no surprises here - what you would expect from high performing companies in the US.

The author also reduces the Koch's libertarian philosophy as a convenient excuse to justify their greed. Then he contradicts himself by describing examples where the company puts principle before profit.

Instead of being a celebration of free-enterprise, the book is a hit piece from a progressive author.

If you are looking for a book to feed on the envy of success, you will enjoy Kochland.

10 people found this helpful

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Extensive History of Koch Industries

Yes this is a deep dive into Koch. Kudos to Leonard for his research. I'm not sure how much cooperation he got from the reliably secretive Kochs. A few takeaways - Admiration for Charles Koch's business acumen. However I despise the Koch brother's politics and reading a 23 hr. book hasn't changed my opinion, which is - libertarianism is total b.s., it has never existed in this country from the very beginning when President George Washington and his aide Alexander Hamilton realized that the U.S. needed a strong central govn't. - and if it ever exists here, the U.S would eventually become a 3rd world nation.

The author displays a type of Stockholm Syndrome by "falling in love" with his subjects. I really don't give a damn about Charles' son Skippy or whatever his name is, and wonder why Leonard spends an entire chapter on him. As far as succession, I would rather see the empire fall into rust after the death of the elderly Charles. Also, I don't have much use for Charles's management philosophy and suspect that it is B.S. I think that Charles success has more to do with being shrewd, data driven, embracing new technology, thinking long term, hardworking, and yes being ruthless.

Left out of the book is the harsh German nanny the brothers were raised by, the one who went off to join Hitler when World War 2 started, which might of had something to do with the harsh competitiveness between the brothers, The father Fred was a John Bircher (an extinct paranoid fringe group.) So perhaps crazy political beliefs are part of the Koch's DNA. One thing is certain, their politics particularity denial of global warming has more to do with protecting their biz than anything else.

7 people found this helpful

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Bogus

A work of sensationalized liberal fiction filled with inaccuracies, innuendo, misrepresentations and falsehood. Read with a grain of salt and with your rose colored glasses on.

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Amazing!

I generally don’t write reviews but this one deserves one. It’s truly excellent and I highly recommend it. It will help you understand why we are where we are today.

9 people found this helpful

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Very well researched great reader

Didn't want it to end..... at least not end well for the brothers. Really informative and engaging


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  • Hi
  • 04-19-21

Liberal Democrat Partisan Waste of Time

Completely biased. Nonsensical banter trying to convince reader/listener that Democrats speak only in truths. Enough said.

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Very engaging history of the Koch empire

Well written and performed (listened on audible), kept me engaged throughout. The book does a good job of telling the stories from the perspective of various characters who are the very center (unseemingly so) of the history of this company. The personalities that the author has used in the book, who become the reader's eyes in this historical work, make for very interesting reading. The book also educates and navigates through the social, political, economic landscapes that prevail in the times across which the book travels. The book also maintains a balanced perspective, it's tread the line between glorifying and admonishing the Koch empire.