Koch, the leader of a Detroit clan with a family fortune of five
billion dollars, owns a controlling interest in the Capricorn Hotel
chain among many other interests. His father and uncle, Harvard-trained
lawyers and his immigrant grandfather,who was a pharmacist in Detroit,
were the founders of this vast fortune. Fred is a University of
Chicago Law School graduate.
In 1943, my friend, Peter, a boy wonder
business tycoon, started a citrus business in Florida at age 21
and later sold out to General Foods for enough stock to become a
millionaire. He left General Foods to become president of Universal
Foods in Chicago. There he met Fred Koch through Sid Luckman, an
All American Columbia quarterback, who later played for the Chicago
After one year, Peter, in a palace
coupe, was summarily fired while his patron, the legendary Martin
Frank, founder and Chairman of Universal Foods was out of the country
and not taking Peter's calls.
Peter left Chicago for New York and
within a year he had raised $10 million dollars in a public offering
and was in control of a company planning to build English style
pubs in the U.S. His English partners were Lord Warwick, the Queen's
cousin, Lord Wodehouse of Wodehouse's Bank and Watney's Brewery.
Wodehouse asked me at the opening of the first U.S. pub, my view
of where U.S. interest rates were headed. My reply, "First down,
and then up."
After opening six pubs in the U.S.
that flopped and a U.S. style fast food hamburger restaurant in
the English Channel resort in Southend that did likewise, Peter
switched gears and started developing wild animal parks and a Disneyland
style amusement park. One such was Treasure Island between Baltimore
and Washington. It was budgeted at $20 million but wet weather delayed
construction and double- and triple-time rates drove the cost to
Fred Koch had introduced his friend
Peter to the senior V.P. and loan officer at the Central National
Bank of Detroit who shoveled the extra loan money to Peter in order
to open for the first summer season. Fred also suggested that Peter
pay the loan officer a $25 thousand annual consulting fee which
he did. Later, when the loan officer was indicted for similar non-arms
length transactions, Peter was called as a witness and the loan
officer received a $50 thousand fine and five years probation.
Peter's first drive-through wild animal
park opened in Toronto in the spring of 1970. I was invited to join
the opening festivities as was Fred Koch. After the opening ceremony
and barbecue next to the lions' park, Fred Koch left for home and
asked Peter for a suitable dinner date for his inamorata, a beautiful
English girl in her twenties who he was sponsoring in medical school.
I was the volunteer and took her to dinner at one of the French
bistros in the heart of the city's Latin quarter in Toronto. She
told me she was the daughter of the commanding officer of the RAF
airbase at Bentwaters, England where my son was then
stationed in the U.S. Airforce. I sometimes wonder if she got her
driving through the wild animal preserve in Treasure Island in Maryland,
built in 1978 by Peter. I observed a male lion with his
pride of lionesses - sisters, aunts, daughters, cousins and perhaps
a few strangers - screwing one of his harem. It was over in 20 seconds.
(What about her?) The coupling was repeated about 50 times that
day with different partners.
My young friend, Peter, lion-like,
also maintained a rotating group of females. He was married, had
three children and a lovely wife living in a grand house on the
bay in Palm Beach. His offices in New York and London kept him flying
and collecting young and pretty stewardesses. He majored in this.
I met him in the Washington, D.C.
airport on his way to meet the parents of his current lover in Rocky
Mount, North Carolina. He was carrying a two-foot chiming clock
wrapped in brown paper as a present for the old folks at home. The
lion in summer was carrying a clock to Rock Mount.
a muggy summer day in Manhattan, Peter's current girlfriend, Elaine,
a leggy former Miss San Francisco, is in the Lenox Hill Hospital
suffering with a nervous breakdown.
Peter, Judy and I are killing time
and holding anxiety at bay in Peter's bachelor pad on East 67th
Street. Peter, playful, boyish, amoral says, "Let's go to Coney
We drive to the beach in Brooklyn
(shades of Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby tragedy stalks
Arriving at the beach in Coney Island,
we join the ticket line at Steeplechase Amusement Park. The roller
coaster is so much fun we ride it a second time.
After a shore dinner at Lundy's in
Sheepshead Bay, we drive back to Manhattan. We check the hospital
and discover Elaine has been discharged.
A week later, at home, Elaine overdoses
on sleeping pill and dies alone.