Close this search box.
Close this search box.

At 83, Charles Koch Is “More Passionate And Working Harder Than Ever”

Koch told attendees at the Global Philanthropy Forum conference in Silicon Valley last week that at 83, he's more passionate and working harder than ever. 
Charles Koch
Photo: Koch Industries

Charles Koch is one of those CEOs who really does not need an introduction.

One of the richest people in the world, Koch assumed the family business in 1967, renaming it Koch Industries Inc. in honor of his father, Fred Koch, who founded the oil refinery and chemical business in 1940. The son — with the aid of his brother, David — went on to transform the $21 million business into a $110 billion conglomerate, employing nearly 130,000 people worldwide, with about 67,000 of those in the U.S., and a presence in 60 countries (David retired in 2018).

Based in Wichita, Kansas, Koch’s myriad of companies are involved in refining, chemicals, and biofuels; forest and consumer products; fertilizers; polymers and fibers; process and pollution control systems; electronics, software and data analytics; minerals; glass; automotive components; ranching; commodity trading; and investments. Notable brands include Stainmaster carpet, Quilted Northern tissue and Dixie cups, plates and cutlery.

Koch has run the private conglomerate under a business philosophy he developed, “Market-Based Management,” also the subject of two books he authored, “The Science of Success” in 2007 and “Good Profit” in 2015. Koch has supported academic and public policy research, with a special focus on developing “voluntary, market-based solutions to social problems,” according to the Charles G. Koch Institute. He has also founded or helped build other organizations, including the Institute for Humane Studies, the Cato Institute, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and the Bill of Rights Institute.

“At 83, I’m more passionate and working harder than ever. I have these fabulous ideas, I think, which I like to see implemented and benefit other people besides myself,” Koch told attendees at the Global Philanthropy Forum conference in Silicon Valley last week.

A longtime libertarian who now considers himself a classical liberal, Koch is now working with people of all political stripes on causes important on all sides of the aisle, he said. In December, he joined forces with former Obama adviser Van Jones, the American Civil Liberties Union and conservative Utah Senator Mike Lee, to successfully lobby for a criminal justice reform bill, which passed with “rare bipartisan support,” Forbes wrote.

Now it’s on to comprehensive immigration reform, and Koch hopes to bring together a similar bipartisan coalition of supporters, he said.

“When we look at what we’re doing, we’re coming closer to what I think one of the great social entrepreneurs in our history, Frederick Douglas’ philosophy on this: ‘I’ll unite with anybody to do right and no one to do wrong.’ So that’s kind of where we ended up, after a long journey and a lot of missteps,” Koch said.

He’s No. 23 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies

Headquarters: Wichita, KS

Age: 83

Education:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.S. and M.S.

First joined company: 1961

Prior to joining Koch: Arthur D. Little

Named CEO: 1967


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.