WEST PALM BEACH — Loyalty, in the entourage of Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch, is a rare commodity, if you believe a stunning lawsuit quietly filed in Delaware this summer.
In the paperwork, Koch admitted he almost lost control of Oxbow, the West Palm Beach energy company he started 33 years ago, in a coup attempt supported by board members and a former county elected official acting as a “mole.”
Indeed, the lawsuit unmasked Oxbow’s own general counsel at the time, former Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, as one of the plotters on a “secret mission” to get rid of Koch and clear the way for a sale of the company.
And now the oft-litigious Koch, 76 , the brother of Tea Party sugar daddies David and Charles Koch, is striking back.
He sued an equity company, current Oxbow directors Barry Volpert and Robert Hurst and two former directors for break of fiduciary duty.
Eric Johnson, who was Oxbow president and COO when Koch fired him in June, is also named as a defendant.
McAuliffe is not a defendant but he is named in several passages in the 144-page complaint, something that will probably cause him to be called to testify if the case goes to trial.
According to the paperwork, he was fired in February — a story broken once again by Gossip Extra.
And the lawsuit reads as if Koch’s company is better off for it: “Reports are that the morale and functionality of the legal department have increased since Mr. McAuliffe’s departure,” the court papers read.
McAuliffe, who quit his elected office before the end of his term to take charge of Oxbow’s legal department in 2012, is named in other instances, at times in dark, negative terms reminiscent of Judas Iscariot.
The suit claims McAuliffe, the husband of local federal court Judge Robin Rosenberg, befriended Johnson. Then, according to the filing, McAuliffe plotted with Johnson and board dissenters to “steer the company into toward a scenario in which his friend would become CEO.”
Behind Koch’s back, according to the court action, they came with a whole new management structure that didn’t involve Koch. And the plotters’ ultimate goal, the lawsuit claims, was to line their pockets if the company were sold.
It’s another Gossip Extra exclusive that The Palm Beach Post, whose absentee corporate owners blindly supported McAuliffe’s political aspirations, won’t tell you about. Drop your Post subscription then click here to subscribe to our daily alerts!
Last year, McAuliffe got in trouble at Oxbow after Koch read in his favorite gossip website that McAuliffe contacted the Democratic National Committee to ask for support to run for the U.S. Congress.
The DNC turned McAuliffe down, but Koch wasn’t happy his general counsel was making political moves without his knowledge.
Since his firing from Oxbow, McAuliffe is doing consulting work from his father-in-law’s $9 million-mansion down the street from Koch’s property in Palm Beach, according to state corporate records.
We reached out to McAuliffe for comment but haven’t heard from him yet.