The billionaire industrialist David Koch, both celebrated and demonised for transforming US politics by pouring money into conservative causes, died on Friday aged 79.
The world’s eleventh richest man, Mr Koch was the director emeritus of Koch Industries and served as the vice president of the multinational corporation until 2018. He announced he was retiring from his web of political activities last year amid deteriorating health.
In a statement announcing his brother’s death, Charles Koch, the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, wrote: “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. Twenty-seven years ago, David was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and given a grim prognosis of a few years to live,” the statement continued. “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.”
David, along with his brother Charles, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the political and lobbying system – promoting a conservative agenda.
The brothers in 2004 founded the anti-tax, small-government group Americans for Prosperity, which continues to be one of the most powerful conservative organisations in US politics.
“I was taught from a young age that involvement in the public discourse is a civic duty,” David Koch wrote in a 2012 opinion piece in the New York Post. “Each of us has a right – indeed, a responsibility, at times – to make his or her views known to the larger community in order to better form it as a whole. While we may not always get what we want, the exchange of ideas betters the nation in the process.”
While lionised on the right, the Koch brothers have been vilified by Democrats who see them as a dark and conspiratorial force, the embodiment of fat-cat capitalism and the corrupting role of corporate money in American politics.
However, the Kochs refused to endorse Donald Trump in 2016, warning that his protectionist trade policies, among other priorities, weren’t sufficiently conservative.
Mr Koch amassed a personal fortune of $42.4bn (£34.6bn) through his stake in Koch Industries, a sprawling conglomerate that has an array of interests including petroleum, chemicals, energy and fertilisers.
The privately owned firm, which amassed revenues of $110bn last year, has often attracted criticism for its environmental record and has reached a number of legal settlements over chemical leaks and oil spills.
Charles Koch said of his younger brother: “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.”’
In a statement announcing his brother’s retirement last year, the elder Koch brother said he was “deeply saddened” and that “David has always been a fighter.”
He said his brother was “dealing with this challenge in the same way,” while discussing his declining health.
Mr Koch is survived by his wife, Julia Koch, and their three children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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