Both Charles and David Koch have received their fair share of vitriol over the years because of their involvement in politics and other activities related to either environmental or social issues in the United States. Some critics even make the claim that they exhibit a massive amount of control over how the energy industry works in America.
I will concede that these two brothers have very large holdings in the energy industry. However, they are but one part of their entire corporate holdings that include lumber, paper, cattle, clothing, fertilizer, and even carbon capture technology. In fact, their assets in the energy industry -- refiner Flint Hills Resources and Koch Pipeline -- are close in size to the publicly traded companies HollyFrontier and Holly Energy Partners. Combined, their respective shares would amount to only about $4 billion per member of the Koch family, or less than 10% of each one's respective net wealth.
If you really want to know three people who have more control over the energy industry and have made way more money from it than the Koch Brothers, check out these people.
3. Richard Kinder, estimated net worth $9.7 billion
In hindsight, the job that Richard Kinder didn't take may have been the best thing that ever happened to him. Back in 1996, he quit as president and chief operations officer of Enron, even though he was probably on the short list of people to succeed Ken Lay as the CEO. Well, we all know how that turned out..
After Kinder quit Enron, he started buying up natural gas pipeline assets and founded the company Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE: KMP). Today, Kinder Morgan Energy partners and the several other companies affiliated with it own more than 80,000 miles of pipelines in the U.S., the largest pipeline company.
The Kinder Morgan suite of businesses also has 180 terminals, natural gas processing facilities, and oil-and-gas exploration operations. This energy infrastructure the company has in place, combined with the large capital spending program it plans to embark on over the next several years, will have a pivotal impact on how we are able to use natural gas in the United States.
As chairman of the company, Kinder receives a $1 annual salary and receives no stock options or bonuses. He has also committed to donate 95% of his wealth to charitable causes through the Giving Pledge.
2. Erik Fredriksen, estimated net worth $16 billion
Fredriksen is the only one on this list who isn't American, but many of his investments are involved in the American energy landscape. He is the founder and chairman of offshore drilling company Seadrill (NYSE:SDRL) and tanker companies Frontline (NYSE: FRO), Golar LNG (NASDAQ:GLNG), and Golden Ocean. Of all the people on this list, Fredriksen is the only one whose personal wealth didn't come from the actual production of oil and gas, but that doesn't make his impact on the energy world any less important. Seadrill is set to become one of the world's top rig companies, with a specialty in both ultra-deepwater floating vessels and harsh-environment jack-up rigs. Also, Frontline is the world's largest oil tanker company, a business that's poised to see a major shift in oil shipping routes, thanks to the boom in U.S. crude production and the increasing demand in Southeast Asia.
1. Harold Hamm, estimated net worth $17.3 billion
Hamm is a very vocal about the prospects for the Bakken shale formation in the United States, and he should be. He's the founder and chairman of Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR), which is the largest producer of Bakken oil and one of the driving forces behind the shale boom in the United States. Hamm recently made the claim that the Bakken will double its current output to produce as much as 2 million barrels of oil per day. Continental's work in the Bakken has helped to prove out some very innovative drilling and completion techniques, such as drilling multiple tight oil wells on a single pad. These sorts of moves have been crucial in driving down well costs that have been a bit of a bother for shale drillers in the Bakken.
Hamm founded the company in 1967, and he currently owns 68% of the 185 million shares outstanding for Continental Resources. Hamm has also pledged to give a vast majority of his personal wealth to charity through the Giving Pledge.
What a Fool believes
There is one thing that all of these companies are that the energy subsidiaries of Koch Industries are not: They all have a market-leading position in their respective spaces. Kinder Morgan, Frontline, Seadrill, and Continental Resources are all the largest players in their respective spaces and will be major drivers in the industry. Based on the prospects for each of these respective industries and the position each of these companies holds in these industries, it's pretty likely that these energy moguls' fortunes will continue to grow fast.