US Politics

US conservative force David Koch steps down from business and political empire due to failing health

The Koch brothers run a vast empire of organisations that is rivalled by only the Republican Party in terms of influence in right-wing politics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2018, 6:45am

David Koch, one of the two billionaire brothers at the helm of the powerful conservative political network in the US, is retiring from his family’s conglomerate, Koch Industries, and stepping down as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

His brother, Charles Koch, announced in a letter to Koch Industries employees on Tuesday that David Koch’s health had been in decline since he was hospitalised last summer. He was not specific about the illness.

“Unfortunately, these issues have not been resolved and his health has continued to deteriorate,” Charles Koch wrote. “As a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organisational activities.”

Inside the Koch machine: the billionaire brothers who want to ‘save’ America

The departure of David Koch, 78, will change the make-up of one of the most active and well-funded political forces in the country that has been a bulwark in not just supporting but setting the Republican agenda – although not necessarily US President Donald Trump’s.

Mark Holden, who has spent a career at Koch Industries and now helps run their political efforts, said the Koch network would continue to expand even as one of its founders steps aside.

“We greatly appreciate his vital role on the board and all that he has done to help us build a strong foundation for our future success,” Holden said.

David Koch did not attend the network’s winter seminar earlier this year. Charles Koch, 82, has appeared in recent months to pick up some of the slack left over by his brother’s illness.

Democrats know it will be difficult to match the US$900 million of the Koch brothers

David and Charles Koch are tied as the country’s eighth richest men. According to Forbes Magazine, both are worth US$60 billion.

David Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer 25 years ago, and he has given vast sums toward cancer research since then.

According to an official biography, he has pledged or contributed a total of more than US$1.3 billion to assist causes from cancer research to medical centres, educational institutions, arts and cultural institutions and public policy organisations.

Inside the Koch machine: The billionaire brothers who want to ‘save’ America

While the Koch name is on many buildings, he is best known for wading heavily into politics. In 1980, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice-president.

Charles Koch, who will stay on as chairman and chief executive of Koch Industries, said his brother was “instrumental” in growing the business they inherited from their father “1,000 fold” and branching out beyond energy into a host of other products.

The firm, with annual revenue of US$100 billion, operates pipelines and produces fertiliser but also manufactures consumer goods. It is the second largest privately-held company in the United States.