Sterling Varner

Sterling Varner (Deceased)


  • Varner went to high school in Oklahoma and attended Murray State School of Agriculture in Tishomingo, Oklahoma. [1]


Sterling Verl Varner was president of Koch Industries from 1974 to 1987. He had served on the board of directors since 1967 and was vice chairman of the board from 1987 to 1990. Varner died in 2009, aged 89. [1]

Charles Koch, the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, knew Varner for more than 60 years and considered him “not only a close colleague and key contributor to building Koch Industries, but one of my closest friends.” [2]

Varner was born in 1919. His father and grandfather worked as contractors in the oil fields. Varner himself made his career in the oil and railroad industry. He was employed at Rock Island refinery in Duncan, Oklahoma, which was purchased by Fred Koch in 1946. He later moved to Wichita, where he worked as a purchasing agent for Koch refineries in Oklahoma and St. Louis. His role with Koch expanded from there. [1]

Varner was also a president of the Matador Cattle Company in 1968, which was incorporated by Fred Koch in 1952 and taken over by Charles Koch in 1967, after his father’s death. [3]

Stance on Climate Change

Sterling Varner does not appear to have made any public statements on climate change.

Key Quotes

October 2009

Following his death, Varner featured in October 2009 issue of the quarterly Koch newsletter. It is unclear the exact date the quote from Varner was taken: [4]

Fred Koch was a genius,” said Varner, “but he had a very good people touch.”

December 14, 1998

Varner was quoted in Forbes: [5]

“We were practicing [Market Based Management] before they started preaching it. Charles and those guys just put a name on it.”

Key Deeds

November 20, 1994

The New York Times reported Koch Industries was gaining unwanted press following a nine-year legal battle with Charles Koch’s younger brother, William. William had filed suit in Wichita, claiming Charles and Koch Industries had shortchanged him $1 billion many years ago. Varner commented for the article on William’s popularity with people in Kansas: [6]

 “Billy’s brought his toys to town, shared them and people love it,” said Sterling Varner. “Meanwhile Charles has worked his butt off here. He put his heart into building this company. He’s given millions to charity and never said anything. Billy comes to town and builds a little boathouse and he’s a hero. We must be doing something wrong. If it weren’t for Charles, Billy wouldn’t even have a rowboat.” [6]

Sterling Varner was listed as a defendant in the case, along with Koch Industries itself, Charles G. Koch, David H. Koch, Tom M. Carey, and Donald L. Cordes. [7]

In a prior interview in 1989, Varner—who had been William’s former boss—had little positive to say. “Billy doesn’t like to look into one window too long,” recalled Varner. “He’s a lot better at ideas than at getting the job done. Billy couldn’t find his own thing, something he could excel at and be his own man.” [8]


  • Koch Industries — President (1974 – 1987). Vice chairman of the board (1987 – 1990). Member, board of directors (1967 – 2009). [1][2]
  • Matador Cattle Company — President (1968). [3]

Social Media

Sterling Varner did not appear to hold any social media accounts.


No publications found for Sterling Varner.


  1. Former Koch executive Sterling Varner dies,” Wichita Business Journal, September 30, 2009. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
  2. Former Koch president Sterling Varner dies,The Wichita Eagle, September 30, 2009. Archived May 25, 2009. URL 
  3. William Curry Holden. “MATADOR RANCH,” Handbook of Texas Online. Uploaded June 5, 2010. Archived May 25, 2019. URL:
  4. “Remembering Sterling Varner” (PDF), Discovery, October 2009. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog,
  5. Creative destruction 101,” Forbes, December 14, 1998. Archived November 4, 2016. URL:
  6. Leslie Wayne .”Pulling the Wraps Off Koch Industries,” The New York Times, November 20, 1994. Archived May 25, 2019. URL 
  7. Koch v. Koch Industries, Inc., 969 F. Supp. 1460 (D. Kan. 1997),: July 11, 1997. Retrieved from Justia Law. Archived May 25, 2019. URL:
  8. Survival of the Richest,” Fame, November 1989. Retrieved from Archived May 25, 2019. URL:

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