David Koch: Billionaire and prominent Republican party donor is dead at 79

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Billionaire businessman David Koch, one of the richest men in the world and a prominent Republican party donor, has died.

His death was first revealed by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer on Friday morning.

Details about the time, place and the circumstances surrounding the 79-year-old’s death remain unclear.  

However, his older brother, Charles, 83, noted in a statement his decades-long battle with prostate cancer.   

The siblings – known as the Koch brothers – have been among the biggest donors to the GOP since the 1980s and have shaped American politics as we know it today.

‘It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,’ Charles Koch (pronounced ‘coke’) said on Friday. ‘Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life.’ 

David Koch is survived by his wife, Julia, and their three children: David Jr, Mary Julia, and John Mark. 

‘He believed he had a responsibility to a world that had given him so many opportunities to succeed,’ Julia Koch said in a statement.

‘David’s philanthropic dedication to education, the arts and cancer research will have a lasting impact on innumerable lives – and that we will cherish forever.’ 

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Billionaire businessman David Koch of the infamous Koch brothers has died at age 79. Pictured: Koch, right, with older brother Charles, left, on Morning Joe in November 2015

Billionaire businessman David Koch of the infamous Koch brothers has died at age 79. Pictured: Koch, right, with older brother Charles, left, on Morning Joe in November 2015

Details surrounding Koch's death including the time, place and cause are unclear. Pictured: Koch at the 13th Annual Prostate Cancer Foundation Gala in Water Mill, New York, August 2017

He is survived by his wife, Julia, and their three children. Pictured: Koch with his wife, Julia, at The School of American Ballet's Winter Ball at the David H Koch Theater in New York City, March 2017, right

Details surrounding Koch’s death including the time, place and cause are unclear. He is survived by his wife, Julia, and their three children. Pictured: Koch at the 13th Annual Prostate Cancer Foundation Gala in Water Mill, New York, August 2017, left; and with his wife, Julia, at The School of American Ballet’s Winter Ball at the David H Koch Theater in New York City, March 2017, right

David Koch built his fortune with Koch Industries, an oil, chemical and textiles conglomerate, based in the brothers’ hometown of Wichita, Kansas. 

It is currently the second-largest privately held company in the US, with Charles, the current CEO, saying it would go public ‘literally over my dead body’, reported The Economist.

In June 2018, Koch stepped down from the company, citing health issues.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, which be battled on and off for years. At the time, he was given five months to live.

‘David liked to say that a combination of brilliant doctors, state-of-the-art medications and his own stubbornness kept the cancer at bay,’ Charles Koch’s statement read. 

‘We can all be grateful that it did, because he was able to touch so many more lives as a result.’ 

According to Forbes magazine, David Koch’s net worth was $50.5billion at the time of his death making him the 11th richest person in the world – tied with his brother.

He was reportedly the seventh richest person in the US – tied with Charles again – and the wealthiest resident of New York City. 

The brothers’ combined wealth is believed to have exceeded the wealth of the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman, CEO, and president of Amazon.com Inc.

In addition to New York City, David Koch had homes in Southampton, New York, Aspen, Colorado, and Palm Beach, Florida. 

The brothers began their political journey backing hard-line Libertarian causes in the late seventies, culminating in David’s run as the vice-presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket in the 1980 presidential election.

He and presidential candidate Ed Clark ran on a platform that called for the abolition of Social Security, the IRS, the Federal Reserve, the FBI, the CIA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

They were also against public spending, including public schools, Medicare and Medicaid. 

As a message, it failed to resonate, and the ticket received only one percent, with Ronald Reagan going on to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter.  

Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, in May 1940 and is a twin to Bill Koch. Pictured, left to right: Bill Koch, Charles Koch, David Koch and Frederick Koch, undated

Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, in May 1940 and is a twin to Bill Koch. Pictured, left to right: Bill Koch, Charles Koch, David Koch and Frederick Koch, undated

He earned a bachelor's and a master's degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pictured, left to right: Bill Koch, Charles Koch, and David Koch, undated

He earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pictured, left to right: Bill Koch, Charles Koch, and David Koch, undated

Koch joined Koch Industries, founded by his father, in 1970. Pictured: Mother Mary, sitting; back row, from left to right: Bill Koch, David Koch, father Fred Koch, Charles Koch and Frederick Koch

Koch joined Koch Industries, founded by his father, in 1970. Pictured: Mother Mary, sitting; back row, from left to right: Bill Koch, David Koch, father Fred Koch, Charles Koch and Frederick Koch

He once once held the MIT basketball single-game scoring record of 41 points. Pictured: David Koch, left, and Bill Koch on MIT's basketball team during the 1960-61 season

He once once held the MIT basketball single-game scoring record of 41 points. Pictured: David Koch, left, and Bill Koch on MIT’s basketball team during the 1960-61 season

Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have used their enormous fortune to bankroll their own conservative political machine, creating a vast empire of organizations and advocacy groups that entrenched the post-Reagan GOP as the party of tax cuts and scant regulation.

In doing so, they became the bête noire for many Democratic and environmental activists, who bemoaned the tentacles of the ‘kochtopus’ and its outsized influence on conservative politics. 

Environmental activists criticized the pair for funding political campaigns that focused on rolling back environmental regulations and being the primary sponsors of climate change denial in the US.

Koch Industries has paid millions in penalties and fines for oil spills, discharging toxic chemicals and violating other environmental regulations. 

According to advocacy group Good Jobs First, the company has paid more than $749million in environmental violations since 2000.

The Koch brothers advocated for reduced government spending and limited involvement in wars overseas, and analysts believe they helped give rise to the Tea Party movement. 

In a Weekly Standard interview in 2011, David Koch called then-President Barack Obama ‘the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation’ and accused him of having ‘done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had’, reported CNBC.

Koch ran as the vice-presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, but only received one percent of the vote. Pictured, left to right: David, presidential candidate Ed Clark, and Clark's wife Alicia Garcia Cobos de Clark, during a rally in Los Angeles, September 1980

Koch ran as the vice-presidential candidate on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980, but only received one percent of the vote. Pictured, left to right: David, presidential candidate Ed Clark, and Clark’s wife Alicia Garcia Cobos de Clark, during a rally in Los Angeles, September 1980

He gave $100 million to the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center - subsequently renamed the David H Koch Theater. Pictured: Sarah Jessica Parker and David Koch at the opening night dinner party of the 2008-2009 New York City Ballet in November 2008

He gave $100 million to the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center – subsequently renamed the David H Koch Theater. Pictured: Sarah Jessica Parker and David Koch at the opening night dinner party of the 2008-2009 New York City Ballet in November 2008

Koch is believed to have contributed at least $395million to medical institutions and research projects between 1998 and 2012. Pictured, left to right: Margo Langenberg, Frederick Koch, David Koch, Julia Koch at The School of American Ballet Winter Ball, March 2017

Koch is believed to have contributed at least $395million to medical institutions and research projects between 1998 and 2012. Pictured, left to right: Margo Langenberg, Frederick Koch, David Koch, Julia Koch at The School of American Ballet Winter Ball, March 2017

The Koch brothers funded nonprofits such as Americans for Prosperity, which advocated for lower taxes and fewer business regulation.   

However, the brothers have clashed with Republican President Donald Trump, and backed his rivals for the 2016 Republican nomination.

They ran ads opposing the import tariffs Trump implemented on goods arriving from Canada, the European Union and Mexico. 

The brothers were also supporters of the Obama-era Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and criticized the Trump administration for failing to provide a legal, easy path to citizenship status for young undocumented immigrants. 

David Koch was also a supporter of woman’s right to an abortion, same-sex marriage and prison reform.

The brothers had hinted that they would be open to supporting Democrats in the 2020 election. 

In addition to being a political donor, David Koch was also a philanthropist. 

He gave $100 million to the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center – subsequently renamed the David H Koch Theater – and $65 million to renovate the plaza at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Koch also gave money to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, and the dinosaur wing at the American Museum of Natural History.  

New York-Presbyterian’s ambulatory center and the Natural History museum’s dinosaur wing are also named after him.

Koch is believed to have contributed at least $395million to various medical institutions and research projects between 1998 and 2012.

In total, between the arts and medical fields, he is estimated to have donated between $1.2billion and $1.3billion of his fortune.

Koch married his wife, Julia Flescher, a former Adolfo assistant, in 1996. Pictured: The couple at their wedding in Long Island

Koch married his wife, Julia Flescher, a former Adolfo assistant, in 1996. Pictured: The couple at their wedding in Long Island

Together, they have three children:  David Jr, Mary Julia, and John Mark. Pictured: David, his daughter Mary Julia and his wife Julia at Lincoln Center in May 2008

Together, they have three children:  David Jr, Mary Julia, and John Mark. Pictured: David, his daughter Mary Julia and his wife Julia at Lincoln Center in May 2008 

Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, in May 1940 and is a fraternal twin; Bill Koch was born 19 minutes later.

He earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

The 6-foot-5 Koch played on the school’s basketball team, the Engineers, with his twin Bill, and even once held the single-game scoring record of 41 points, reported The New York Times.

David Koch joined Koch Industries, the company founded by his father, in 1970 as a technical-services manager.

At the time of his death, he and his brother, Charles Koch, each owned 42 percent of the company after buying out the shares of their brothers Bill and Frederick. 

In 1996, Koch married Julia Flescher, a former Adolfo assistant, according to The Times. 

Tributes were shared by numerous politicians on Twitter on Friday morning after news broke of Koch's death

Tributes were shared by numerous politicians on Twitter on Friday morning after news broke of Koch’s death 

Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul led tributes on Twitter on Friday morning.

‘RIP to a man who lived a life of liberty, peace and philanthropy,’ he wrote. ‘Great blessings being great responsibility, and David Koch lived that way. His many contributions will have lasting impact on our country. My thoughts are with his family today.’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was a member of the House of Representatives representing Kansas between 2011 and 2017, expressed his sympathies.

‘I was saddened to hear of the passing of David Koch,’ he tweeted. ‘He was a compassionate philanthropist, successful businessman, and a proud American. I send my prayers to the Koch family during this difficult time.’

The official Twitter page of Libertarian Party also shared condolences, writing: ‘Today, our 1980 nominee for Vice President David Koch passed away. Often a focal point of political debate, David spent much of his life contributing and working in his own way toward what he believed in: a freer world. #RIP #DavidKoch.’

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