Billionaire David Koch Dies at 79

Conservative billionaire industrialist David Koch, who retired from Koch industries last year amid his failing health, has died, his brother said Friday. He was 79. "It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David," Charles Koch announced in a statement, as reported by CNBC. "Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life."

New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer wrote on Twitter that "sources close to the family" confirmed his death. Further details, like the time, place and cause of his death, are unclear. Mayer's 2016 book Dark Money focused on the influence of the Koch family on American politics.

Koch and Charles, 83, have been highly influential figures in U.S. politics since the 1980s, stemming from their fortune with Koch Industries; the two donated billions to a network of conservative organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners and Concerned Veterans for America.

david-koch_getty-Neilson Barnard : Staff
(Photo: Neilson Barnard / Staff, Getty)

David Koch took over as president of Koch Engineering in 1979 and became co-owner of Koch Industries four years later with Charles. Upon his retirement, he was ranked by Forbes as the 11th-wealthiest person in the world behind Charles, who ranked 10th. At the time of his death, Koch's net worth was $42.4 billion.

Koch Industries, which has revenues of $110 billion, refines crude oil, produces fertilizer and makes Dixie cups and Quilted Northern toilet paper.

Diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, Koch was a donor to New York City's Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the Lincoln Center.

In 1980, Koch ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket with Ed Clark; they won 1 percent of the vote on a campaign that ran on abolishing Social Security, the Federal Reserve board, welfare, corporate taxes and minimum wage laws. That election saw Ronald Reagan defeat President Jimmy Carter.

Koch's political views, which included backing free market policies and a reduction in government spending, often led to him and Charles supporting Republican politicians — although they clashed with presidents from both sides of the aisle, including former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

During an interview with the Weekly Standard in 2011, David criticized Obama as "the most radical president we've ever had as a nation" and claimed he had "done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we've ever had."

The Kochs' rifts with Trump have been associated with the administration's implementation of impending tariffs on goods being shipped into the United States from trading allies like the European Union, Canada and Mexico.


Photo credit: Neilson Barnard / Staff / Getty