Charles Koch, the billionaire who turned Koch Industries from a 300-person oil and ranching business into America’s second-largest private company over half a century, has decided to share power with an executive from outside his family.
Dave Robertson, a veteran of nearly 30 years at the Wichita, Kansas-based group, is stepping up from the role of chief operating officer to be co-chief executive along with Charles Koch as part of a reshuffle, which the company said would ensure that it continued to “succeed well into the future”.
Charles Koch, aged 87 and with a fortune estimated by Bloomberg at $67bn, will continue as chair, a role he has held since 1967. His son, Chase, has played an increasingly visible role in the company and is adding the title of executive vice-president to his existing job leading an investment arm called Koch Disruptive Technologies.
“My role and responsibilities will continue as they have been,” Charles Koch said in a statement, adding: “I believe altogether these changes will improve our ability to continually transform for the benefit of our company, our employees, our customers and people throughout society.”
Koch Industries has 120,000 employees across 60 countries and annual revenues of $125bn, but it has also become well known for the political activism of its controlling family.
Charles and his brother David, who died in 2019, became leading funders of libertarian causes and Republican candidates, enraging many on the left for their backing of conservative judges and support for groups that denied the scientific consensus on climate change.
At the same time, they split from former US president Donald Trump on subjects including trade and gay marriage. Americans for Prosperity, the US donor network Charles Koch leads, recently indicated that it would oppose Trump’s bid to secure re-election in 2024.
Koch Industries ranks second only to Cargill in Forbes’ revenue-based ranking of private US companies. It remains a significant player in the energy refining and trading industries but has diversified to consumer products such as Brawny paper towels and investments in technologies including batteries for electric vehicles.
Robertson has already run several of Koch’s largest operations since joining the company in 1984, including Flint Hills Resources, the refineries and pipelines business, and serves on the boards of subsidiaries including Georgia-Pacific, its paper products group. He will also add the title of vice-chair.
Last year he defended Koch’s decision to maintain two glass factories in Russia even as other western companies were leaving the country after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “We will not walk away from our employees there or hand over these manufacturing facilities to the Russian government so it can operate and benefit from them,” he said.
Jim Hannan, an executive vice-president who oversees operations including Georgia-Pacific and the Guardian Industries glass business, will succeed Robertson as the group’s president and chief operating officer.