David Koch steps down from family business, political work

Americans for Prosperity Foundation Chairman David Koch speaks in Orlando, Fla., in 2013. Koch is stepping down from the Koch brothers network of business and political activities. The 78-year-old cited health reasons in a letter distributed to company officials on Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

PUBLISHED: June 5, 2018 at 11:30 am | UPDATED: June 5, 2018 at 11:30 am

Billionaire David Koch is stepping down from leadership positions in his family’s business and conservative political empire because of deteriorating health, his older brother told company employees in a letter Tuesday.

“We are deeply saddened by this, and will miss David’s insightful questions and his many contributions to Koch Industries,” Charles Koch wrote about his 78-year-old brother.

Charles Koch, 82, has been the primary leader in recent years for the Koch political network, a vast empire of organizations that’s rivaled by only the Republican Party in terms of influence in conservative politics.

David Koch had served as an executive vice president and a board member of Koch Industries, a Wichita, Kansas-based conglomerate with interests ranging from oil and ranching to farming and the manufacturing of electrical components.

He’s also served as chairman and chief executive officer of Koch Chemical Technology Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries.

Democrats have vilified the Koch brothers for their massive role in national politics, which has helped shape state and federal policy over the past decade. On Monday, their network announced a multi-year, multi-million-dollar campaign to promote free trade and oppose President Donald Trump’s moves to impose tariffs.

Trump clashes

The network has clashed with Trump before and the Koch brothers, who each have a net worth of about $47 billion in the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, didn’t support him in the 2016 campaign. They have since praised his efforts to cut taxes and regulations.

Keeping the network’s donors happy is important for Republicans, especially as Democrats show signs of momentum as they campaign to win the 23 seats they need to gain control of the House after the November election.

The network, which could make a difference in some of the states that could tip the balance of power on Capitol Hill, says it plans to spend roughly $400 million on state and federal policy and politics during the two-year election cycle that culminates with the November balloting. That marks about a 60 percent increase over 2015-16, although leaders have said more than a third of the 2017-18 total has already been spent.

Top positions

Although David Koch’s involvement had been reduced in recent years, he still held several top positions within the Koch network, including as chairman of a foundation that supports Americans for Prosperity. That group, the network’s primary political vehicle, has been one of the most active television advertisers so far in this year’s midterm congressional campaign.

“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,” Mark Holden, general counsel of Koch Industries and co-chairman of the semi-annual donor summits the political network hosts, said in a statement. The donor summits are gatherings of the top donors to the Koch network where they discuss policy goals and hear from elected officials and other speakers.

Born and raised in Wichita, David Koch received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is a resident of New York City.