David Koch, a libertarian supporter of many conservative causes who reshaped America’s political landscape and also funded many charities, has died at age 79.
His brother, Charles Koch, confirmed the news in a statement Friday. “It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my brother David,” he said. “Anyone who worked with David surely experienced his giant personality and passion for life.”
The family of David Koch also released a statement. “While we mourn the loss of our hero, we remember his iconic laughter, insatiable curiosity, and gentle heart,” it said.
The Koch brothers had a net worth of tens of billions of dollars. David Koch gained most of his wealth from a 42% stake in Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries.
The company, of which David Koch owned 42%, was the center of power for the Koch brothers for decades. They started and co-owned the Kansas-based energy and chemical company, which is now the No. 2 privately held U.S. company and operates in areas from paper to oil to beef. The Kochs have used its proceeds to fund a range of interests, notably the political campaigns of many Republican officials over the years. Their contributions to the Tea Party in 2010 were credited with giving momentum to the limited-regulation movement that arose in President Barack Obama’s first term.
Beyond supporting individual causes, the Kochs also put money into efforts such as questioning climate science and lowering taxes. David Koch took more moderate positions on certain issues, including abortion and same-sex marriage. He was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 1980.
Jane Mayer, a staff writer with the New Yorker, chronicled the influence of the Koch brothers in her best-selling 2016 book Dark Money. The book was adapted as a documentary film that had a limited theatrical release by PBS in 2018.
Koch also supported the arts, giving substantial sums to cultural organizations such as New York’s Lincoln Center. When Lincoln Center’s renovations unfolded earlier this decade after an extensive fundraising campaign, the result was an odd faceoff on the center’s famed Upper West Side plaza. David Geffen donated to the revamp of Avery Fisher Hall, only to find his name adorning the building opposite David Koch Hall, the home of the New York City Ballet.