Sometimes, he would lose his temper. "It's his company. If he wanted to yell at you because you screwed up a $100 million investment, I think that's his right," Zagrecki says.

Meanwhile, his personal life had a habit of upstaging his professional accomplishments. In 1992, he won the nation's most prestigious sailing competition, the America's Cup. He spent $68 million to assemble the best team and build a faster boat and sailed with the crew as a novice. Later, he would credit his "T3 philosophy for success — talent, teamwork, and technology." However, he was criticized in the media for the tax breaks he received for contributing to the foundation that financed his win.

Then, in 1994, as his legal battle with his brothers raged on, Vanity Fair wrote a profile labeling him "Wild Bill," the black sheep of the family. The insults may have come from his brothers, but Bill didn't help his own cause. "I could be a really nasty shit," he said in the article. "I would go up to my secretary [and say], 'You dumb shit, why'd you make that mistake?' I was that kind of guy."

Bill Koch.
Kim Sargent
Bill Koch.

A wine lover, he began collecting 40,000 bottles worth more than $12 million, keeping them in a climate-controlled cellar with a computer system designed to locate every vintage. He also collected fine art and Western memorabilia — Renoir, Rodin, Jesse James' gun, Gen. Custer's rifle.

His appetite for women was easily as voracious as his love of wine. In 1995 — a year after he got married — he tried to evict his mistress, an elegant, blond former model named Catherine de Castelbajac, from a condo he owned at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. Castelbajac refused to leave and filed a palimony suit, claiming Koch had promised to support her financially for the rest of her life. Soon, the embarrassing details of the geeky billionaire's love life emerged in a Boston courtroom. Jurors learned that Bill was seeing three other women aside from Castelbajac (including his first wife, Joan Granlund, and a girlfriend, Marie Beard, with whom he would have a daughter.) Koch and Castelbajac exchanged lurid love notes via fax, such as one Castelbajac signed, "Hot Love from Your X-rated Protestant Princess." When jurors finally ordered Castelbajac to leave the apartment, they didn't sympathize with either party. "Neither of them is a prize," mechanic William Tracia Jr. told the Boston Globe.

In 1996, Koch, then 56, married his second wife, Angela, who was 18 years younger than he. Theirs was a stormy relationship too.

One evening in July 2000, police were called to the Kochs' summer home in Cape Cod. Angela alleged Bill had punched her in the stomach while she held their 1-year-old daughter. The cops issued a restraining order against him, and for a few months, he was banished to their beach house — a cottage that's separate from their main mansion on Palm Beach.

In the divorce fight that followed, Angela and Bill accused each other of having drinking problems in court documents. She complained that he fired her favorite chef and the nanny. He hired private detectives to trail her in Palm Beach.

Eventually, they reached a settlement that gave Angela a lump sum of $16 million, in addition to child-support payments. The deal, outlined in Palm Beach Circuit Court documents, was to be "null and void" unless the domestic-violence case against Bill in Massachusetts was dismissed. As the lawyers finalized the terms of the deal in December 2000, Angela refused to testify in the case, and the prosecutor dropped the criminal assault and battery charge against Koch. Angela, who is remarried and lives in West Palm Beach, did not respond to requests for comment.

Goldstein, the spokesman for Bill Koch, denies that the settlement was arranged to get Angela to drop the charges. Throughout the divorce, Koch maintained he never hit his wife. "An absolute fiction of her imagination. Never happened," Goldstein says.

As his romantic roller coaster continued, Bill Koch lost most of his lawsuits against his brothers. "He was devastated," Angela Koch told the New York Post. "It was something he could not get over — it just ate him up." Meanwhile, his business goals began to shift.

Around 2000, Oxbow sold its geothermal power plants. Goldstein says the corporate execs sensed the federal subsidies were going to disappear, and the industry would no longer be stable. So the company that once prided itself on producing green energy switched its focus to fossil fuels — mining natural gas and coal and becoming the world's largest marketer of petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining that emits high levels of sulfur and carbon dioxide when burned.

Oxbow bought the Elk Creek Mine in Gunnison County, Colorado, a small town near Aspen. It soon hired more than 300 people, most of whom climb under the earth every day, breathing in soot and methane gas, to retrieve black chunks of fuel.

Oxbow provides healthy paychecks in a rural mountain region where job options are limited. Goldstein says the company has donated money to the local hospitals, high school, little league fields, and the library. In return, residents tolerate the inherent perils of working for a coal company.

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