Martin “Copperhead” Van Kress

Martin Van Kress is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He has been called the King of Copper due to his extensive holdings and the influence he exerts over the Chilean copper industry. He has earned the nickname Copperhead which some say is due to his copper holdings and others claim is more related to his cutthroat business practices and his ability to address a crisis swiftly and effectively.

Early Life

Martin was born in Breakout City on May 7, 1927, to George and Edna Van Kress. George worked as a cabinetmaker and Edna was a seamstress. Martin was the fourth child born to the couple. None of his three older siblings lived past the age of seven. He did have a younger brother, George Jr., who he was quite close to growing up. The two boys were nearly inseparable.

Personal Life

Martin has been married twice. He met his first wife, Helena Graves, in high school. The two began dating and were married in July of 1945. It was ten years before they had their first child, a daughter named Darlene. They had their only son, Andrew, two years later. Ten years later they were surprised with the birth of their third child, Daphne, named after Helena’s maternal grandmother. Helena was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 1982 and died a couple of months later. In early 1992 Martin met and married his second wife, Francisca Perez. At the time of the marriage, she was 22, more than forty years his junior. The relationship was tempestuous and within three years she had filed for divorce. She was killed in a car accident just days later.


Early on Martin showed a great aptitude for business, starting his own paper route at a young age and employing his brother George Jr. to do most of the work for him. He had aspirations of attending Harvard Business School but instead ended up at Breakout City College when his father took ill and he had to help support his parents. It was there that he met Randolph White and Gideon Thurston. The three of them opened their own public relations business and it is rumored that they did a lot behind the scenes to help get John F. Kennedy elected to the office of President of the United States. The three men earned the nickname The Three Ambassadors.

In the early 1960s, Martin turned his eye to Chile and the burgeoning copper industry. He sank every dime he had into it, first purchasing the Copperhead Mine. The success of the mine allowed him to purchase others in the area. He then took that money back to the United States where he made his first large scale real estate purchases in and around Breakout City, Philadelphia, upstate New York, Boston, and Las Vegas. His real estate holdings soon outstripped even his copper mining as far as revenue. In 2011 it was estimated that his personal wealth had reached just over 7 billion dollars.


Martin is chairman of the board for several charities, most prominently For Love of Lydia, a nonprofit owned by his family that helps reunite lost and runaway children with their families. It is estimated that he has personally donated upwards of twenty million dollars to this charity over the last several years.