Conservative billionaire David Koch, who became a household name through the policy and political empire he created with his older brother, Charles, has died. He was 79.
Charles Koch, the CEO of the family’s industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, announced the death Friday.
“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David. Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life,” the elder Koch said in a statement.
David Koch retired from the company and the Koch political operations in 2018, citing health reasons. Sources close to the family told CNN he had been in declining health in recent weeks.
The Koch brothers were best known — and vilified by Democrats — for their role in politics, and they used their vast wealth to build a sprawling array of think tanks, foundations and political groups to spread their small-government, free-market message. In some elections, the Koch network rivaled the spending and scope of the national Republican Party, and analysts view their activism as helping to have fueled the Tea Party movement.
David Koch was most active in Americans for Prosperity, the grassroots arm of the Koch’s sprawling network, which built a coalition of more than 3 million activists to push the agenda of the Kochs and the roughly 700 like-minded donors to help fund their public policy work.
Their mission expanded to include large donations to colleges and universities as well as advocating for criminal justice reform. They also dedicated funds toward medical research and the arts.
David Koch himself entered politics decades ago, waging an unsuccessful bid as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 1980 with Ed Clark. They won just 1% of the vote.
But in the era of President Donald Trump — whom Charles Koch pointedly declined to support in 2016 — the network has undergone a significant shift in focus, upping its commitment to work across party lines on top priorities, such as promoting free trade and creating a path to permanent legal status for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as young children.
The Koch company is an industrial conglomerate that is one of the world’s largest private companies, engaging in everything from oil refining to making consumer products such as Brawny paper towels. Forbes pegged David Koch’s net worth at more than $42 billion.
Koch Industries has an estimated annual revenue of $110 billion and 120,000 employees. While primarily known as an oil company, it makes a wide variety of other products including Stainmaster carpet, Dixie paper cups and plates, Brawny paper towels and AngelSoft toilet paper, as well as fertilizer, asphalt and window glass.