×

David Koch, Libertarian Activist and Billionaire Philanthropist, Dies at 79

David Koch, brother of Charles Koch and one of the owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest private company in the U.S., has died at 79.

According to the New York Times, Charles Koch announced the news of his brother’s death in a statement. Though he did not attribute to David’s death to a particular cause, he mentioned that David had battled prostate cancer in the past.

“It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,” the statement reads. “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 brothers were well-known throughout the nation for using their massive fortune to further their political interests, and are often credited with giving rise to the Tea Party movement and helping land Donald Trump the presidency in 2016 through monetary backing of organizations that furthered his agenda. Their efforts also helped fund the growth of issue-oriented political advertising in television.

The brothers have together denied that their political activism is self-serving and have distanced themselves from the Tea Party politically, insisting that they are upholding more traditional tenets of libertarianism. The brothers have contributed to organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts legislation with a conservative bent. They did not publicly endorse Trump, and in 2018 were part of a public rift with the president after Charles denounced some of his polices and the president hit back on Twitter.

In addition to his private interests, David Koch (pronounced coke) was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 1980. He was known as the more outgoing of the two brothers, and could often be seen at New York social functions, unlike Charles, who preferred to remain in Witchita, Kan., where Koch Industries is based. David was also regarded as the more philanthropy-oriented of the two, while Charles handles the business and political side of the conglomerate.

Charles and David Koch became majority owners of the firm their father Fred founded in 1983 after a bitter legal dispute with their other two brothers, who had also inherited interests in the company when Fred died in 1967. Koch Industries has annual revenues in the $110 billion range and interests in more than 60 countries.

While putting a significant amount of their wealth towards lobbying for legislation, the Kochs are also prominent within arts and philanthropic circles, having made hefty donations to organizations like the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

David is survived by his wife, Julia Flesher, three children, and his three brothers.

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    Charlie Rose Sued for Sexual Harassment by Longtime Makeup Artist

    A makeup artist who worked for Charlie Rose for 22 years has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit, accusing the former CBS and PBS host of years of unlawful behavior toward female employees. Gina Riggi alleges that Rose was verbally abusive with her and would often make derogatory comments about her weight. She also alleges that [...]

  • Rob Stringer

    Sony Music Chief Rob Stringer on Sustaining Growth and Recovering From the 'Dark Times'

    The Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference, now in its 28th year, gives top executives at major companies the opportunity to make their case to investors — and the Goldman analysts the opportunity to keep things on the up and up. While the analysts don’t necessarily grill the executives, they don’t lob softball questions either. That was [...]

  • Frank Grillo'Avengers: Endgame' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Matt Phelps Tapped as President of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo's Warparty

    Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan’s Warparty productikon banner has appointed Matt Phelps president of the company. Phelps will head the Los Angeles office and be responsible for overseeing all film and television projects. “We searched long and hard to find the right fit for Warparty and felt that Matt embodied everything that we were looking [...]

  • Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent,

    Jack Gilardi, Longtime ICM Partners Agent, Dies at 88

    Jack Gilardi, a longtime ICM Partners agent who represented such stars as Burt Reynolds, Sylvester Stallone, Jerry Lewis, Charlton Heston and Shirley MacLaine, died Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 88. Gilardi was known for his gentlemanly style, love of the Los Angeles Dodgers and his skill at representing top actors. He [...]

  • Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton

    Nexstar Completes Tribune Acquisition, Sean Compton to Head Programming

    Nexstar Media Group has become the nation’s largest owner of TV stations after completing its $4.1 billion acquisition of Tribune Media. The deal creates a broadcasting colossus with more than 200 stations serving more than 100 markets, although a number of stations will be divested to keep Nexstar in compliance with FCC ownership limits. Nexstar, [...]

  • Leaving Neverland HBO

    Judge Sides With Michael Jackson Estate in 'Leaving Neverland' Dispute

    A federal judge is leaning towards granting the Michael Jackson estate’s move to take HBO to arbitration in its dispute over the documentary “Leaving Neverland.” Judge George Wu issued a tentative ruling on Thursday in which he denied HBO’s motion to dismiss the estate’s case. Wu is expected to make the ruling final by the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content