WASHINGTON: Billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Koch passed away at age 79, Koch Industries has confirmed. Reports are that he was fighting numerous illnesses, including prostate cancer. He was a vice presidential candidate, a businessman and engineer. A chemical engineer by training, Koch was an executive in the family-run conglomerate. He ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.
Koch was a benefactor of educational, medical and cultural organizations too numerous to mention.
“David Hamilton Koch, longtime stockholder, director, and leader in Koch Industries passed away on August 23, 2019, at age 79 after many years of fighting various illnesses,” the company said in a statement.
The billionaire industrialist, with his older brother, Charles, co-owned Koch Industries prior to David’s retirement last year. His estimated worth is between $42.4 and $51 billion, making him the 11th richest person in the world, according to one Forbes report. He held a 42 percent stake in the global family enterprise, Koch Industries
Charles Koch said in a statement announcing his brother’s death: “It is with a heavy heart that I now must inform you of David’s death.”
“Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life. Twenty-seven years ago, David was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given a grim prognosis of a few years 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. We can all be grateful that it did, because he was able to touch so many more lives as a result.”
The Koch Bros. Politics
David and Charles Kock have been the subject of celebration, and demonization, for their support of a variety of conservative policies. Both brothers helped transform American politics by pouring their riches into conservative-libertarian causes. The Wichita, Kansas based company, the second-largest privately held company in the United States, has vast holdings in oil refineries, paper mills, fertilizer plants, cattle ranches, and other ventures. Koch Bros. are also investors in Stainmaster carpeting, Brawny paper towels, and Dixie cups.
Both David and Charles Koch said they believed in the liberty of the individual. They also believed in free trade, free markets and freedom from what they called government “intrusions.” Some of those intrusions included taxes, military drafts, compulsory education, business regulations, welfare programs and laws that criminalized homosexuality, prostitution and drug use. In keeping with those beliefs, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 1980.
The Koch brothers’ money-fueled brand of libertarianism helped give rise to the Tea Party movement. Some estimate that the Kochs gave $100 million to transform the group into a politically recognized force and strengthened the far-right wing of the Republican Party.
However, they both denied giving money to any Tea Party candidates.
“I’ve never been to a Tea Party event,” David Koch told New York magazine in 2010. “No one representing the Tea Party has ever even approached me.”
The Kochs were behind the founding and financing of the Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing advocacy group said to provide logistical backing for the Tea Party and other organizations in election campaigns and the promotion of conservative causes.
Other political groups the Koch’s supported include the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of conservative state legislators and corporate lobbyists. ALEC drafts model state legislation that members may customize for introduction as proposed laws to cut taxes, combat illegal immigration, loosen environmental regulations, weaken labor unions and oppose gun laws.
During his life, Koch supported a wide range of charities.
David Koch’s philanthropy extends to the $100 million given in 2007 to create a cancer research institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also gave millions to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the M.D. Anderson Cancer in Houston and other institutions.
The Lincoln Center theater that houses the New York City Ballet became the David H. Koch Theater in 2008 after he gave $100 million. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History opened a wing in his name dedicated to the story of human evolution after he contributed $15 million.
He said his philanthropy was fueled by a brush with death during a 1991 collision of two airliners at the Los Angeles airport. More than 30 people were killed.
“I felt that the good Lord was sitting on my shoulder and that he helped save my life because he wanted me to do good works and become a good citizen,” he told Barbara Walters in 2014.
After surviving a plane crash in 1991, Koch was moved to change his life.
“I was amazed that I had survived this accident. Thinking back on it later,I felt that the good Lord was sitting on my shoulder and that He helped save my life because He wanted me to do good works and become a good citizen,” Koch said in a 2014 interview.
“Following that revelation, I became tremendously philanthropic, and I intend to continue being very philanthropic the rest of my life.”
“I’d like it to say that David Koch did his best to make the world a better place and that he hopes his wealth will help people long after he has passed away,” David Koch continued.
“The significance of David’s generosity is best captured in the words of Adam Smith, who wrote, ‘to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature,’” Charles Koch says.
David Hamilton Koch was born in Wichita on May 3, 1940, the third of four sons of Fred Chase Koch, an oil engineer and entrepreneur, and the former Mary Clementine Robinson, a Wellesley College graduate and the daughter of a Kansas City physician.
David and his brothers, Frederick, seven years older; Charles, five years older, and David’s twin, William, grew up in Wichita, Kansas. Their father, Fred Koch, made millions during the 1920s and ’30s, creating the company that eventually became Koch Industries. Fiercely anti-Communist, Fred Koch co-founded the right-wing John Birch Society. and created the Wichita company that became Koch Industries.