America and the Sea Award

William I. Koch: 2009

Internationally renowned sailor and avid maritime collector

William I. Koch, founder of the Oxbow Group, philanthropist, avid collector and world-renowned sailor, has been named the recipient of the America and the Sea award which is presented annually by Mystic Seaport.

Koch was presented the award Thursday, October 29, at a gala held in his honor in New York City.

The annual award recognizes an individual or organization whose contributions to the history, arts or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American spirit and character. Previous winners have included pre-eminent yacht designer Olin J. Stephens II, respected author and historian David McCullough and the President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas B. Crowley, Jr.

“This award honors America’s relationship to the sea and the spirit of exploration, adventure, creativity, competition and freedom that inspires us all,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White. “Like the honorees before him, Bill represents a passion and respect for the sea that clearly parallels Mystic Seaport’s mission – to understand and celebrate how the sea is a part of all of our lives.”

Internationally known as a businessman, chemical engineer, philanthropist, art collector and world-class sailor, Koch received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and began his career working for Koch Industries – an oil refining business founded by his father, Fred C. Koch. In the early 1980s, Koch founded the Oxbow Group, a business focused on building and operating alternative energy power plants and buying, transporting and selling petroleum coke. The diversified holding company has since been consistently recognized by Forbes Magazine as one of the top 500 privately held companies in America.

In his role as owner and president of the Oxbow Group, Koch has helped finance, build, manage and operate clean-energy power plants throughout the United States, the Philippines and Costa Rica. Since 2000, Oxbow has developed a 6.5 million-ton-per-year, low-sulfur, environmentally compliant coal mine; found and developed a large natural gas reserve and become the largest petroleum coke marketer in the world. Oxbow Carbon and Minerals, a trading company Koch founded almost two decades ago, now has offices across the globe, operating in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, St. Croix, China, Egypt, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, and India.

Koch’s exceptional business approach stems from his T3 philosophy – talent, teamwork and technology – which encourages employee participation, rewards teamwork and relies on scientific research to make calculated risks.

This T3 philosophy has been carried over to other areas of Koch’s life, specifically on the water. As a world-renowned sailor, Koch raced his maxi yacht, Matador, in numerous regattas in the mid to late 1980s. Soon after, Koch set up a research program at MIT to develop the fastest Maxi in the world, resulting in the building of Matador2 that won the Maxi World Championship in 1990 and 1991.

Koch continued his winning streak in 1992, surprising the world as his specially designed America3 captured the America’s Cup. He was inducted into the America’s Cup Hall of Fame in 1993 and backed the first all-women team to compete for the Cup in 1995. Philanthropy is fundamental to Koch’s philosophy. He funds the William I. Koch Sea Scout Cup, an international sailing competition for young sailors and is Chairman of the America3 Foundation. He recently was awarded the Leadership and Philanthropy Award from the American Ireland Fund.

As an avid collector of art, wine, firearms and maritime memorabilia, Koch’s collections include 19th-century artworks by Monet, Renoir, Degas and Cézanne; images of the American West by Remington and Russell; and brilliant marine canvases by Fitz Henry Lane, Robert Salmon and James E. Butterworth, among others. His collection of models of America’s Cup vessels – from the inception of the race in 1851 to present day – is complete and unequalled, containing not only every boat that won the Cup, but every boat that competed for it, too.

Additionally, Koch’s maritime collection includes campaign and shipboard furniture, maritime instruments and nautical devices, further illustrating not only a collector’s love of art and love of the sea and all of its traditions, but also his respect for and understanding of maritime tradition.