Sibling rivalry leads brothers into court case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Bill Koch won the America’s Cup, formed a commission to study criminal justice issues — and sued two of his brothers.
He was expected to be the star witness during the third week of the federal lawsuit trial pitting the multimillionaire Koch brothers against each other.
Bill Koch and another brother, Frederick Koch, are suing Koch Industries — the company founded by their father — and executives over a 1983 stock sale. The defendants include Charles Koch, the company’s chief executive officer, and David Koch, its executive vice president.
Attorneys for the former stockholders already called David Koch — Bill’s twin brother — to the stand as a hostile witness. David broke down and wept in recalling the family’s disputes last week.
Bill Koch is next on the list of witnesses filed by his attorneys before the trial with U.S. District Judge Sam Crow. Due to a gag order issued by Crow, attorneys cannot talk with reporters about their plans.
More than $1 billion could be at stake in the lawsuit. Koch Industries is the nation’s second-largest privately held corporation, with $30 billion in reported sales in 1997 and interests in crude oil refineries, asphalt plants, cattle ranches, feedlots and grain elevators.
The former stockholders claim the company cheated them when they sold their stock in 1983 by withholding crucial information that might have led to a higher price per share. The company contends the price was fair and the former stockholders, led by Bill Koch, are engaged in a legal vendetta.
The dispute has been bitter for years — so bitter that seating in the courtroom is arranged so that Bill and Frederick Koch do not have to look at Charles and David Koch.
At 64, Frederick is the oldest brother, but has never been active in the company. Charles, 62, was his father’s hand-picked successor. David and Bill are both 57, but David is older by a few minutes.
Bill is the most flamboyant of the brothers, receiving national attention for his 1992 America’s Cup yachting victory.
With then Gov. Joan Finney’s endorsement, he later formed the Koch Crime Commission. Mrs. Finney attended the trial’s opening arguments, sitting with Bill Koch’s supporters.
Bill Koch also has considered running for the U.S. Senate Democratic nomination.
If he ran as a Democrat, it would be out of keeping with other family politics. His father helped found the conservative John Birch Society, and David ran as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 1980.
Last week, David described Bill as irresponsible during a 1980 stockholders’ dispute that led to Bill’s firing as a Koch Industries executive. David said Bill referred to Charles as “Prince Charles.”