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U.S. billionaire David Koch dies at 79

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One of the world’s richest people, American billionaire David Koch has died. He was aged 79.

Charles Koch, Koch Industries Inc’s chairman, disclosed the death in a statement that touched on his younger brother’s lengthy battle with prostate cancer and his philanthropic contributions to medical research, education and the arts. Charles is 83 years-old.

“He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten,” Koch said in a statement addressed to employees. “David was proud of the extraordinary work you all have done to make Koch Industries the successful company that it is today.”

Koch, a philanthropist and patron of cultural and medical institutions, amassed his vast wealth with a large ownership stake in Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kansas-based company he ran with Charles.

With Charles as chairman and chief executive and David as executive vice president, Koch Industries – one of the world’s largest privately held businesses – aggressively expanded beyond the oil refining business their father created into an array of new ventures.

David Koch stepped down from the business and political activities in June 2018, citing declining health.

He and his brother Charles, both Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained engineers, spent hundreds of millions of dollars to back conservative causes and Republican political candidates. They were fierce critics of Democratic President Barack Obama but failed in their bid to stop him from being re-elected in 2012.

The brothers funded groups like Americans for Prosperity that spread their libertarian vision of conservatism advocating lower taxes and fewer regulations on businesses, and donated heavily to Republican candidates. Critics said the brothers used their riches to buy political influence and peddle positions that would benefit them financially.

The Kochs were no fans of businessman-turned-politican Donald Trump and backed rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Once Trump was nominated by the party, the brothers redirected their political donations toward congressional races rather than the presidential election in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Koch brothers strongly opposed Trump’s protectionist trade policies, which abandoned free trade deals, aimed tariffs at close U.S. allies and picked fights with major trade partners like China.

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David and Charles Koch (pronounced “Coke”) each were worth $58.7 billion, ranking 7th and 8th on the list of the world’s richest people, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Their combined wealth exceeded that of the world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

Their father, Fred Koch, founded Koch Industries and built gas plants in Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union before becoming an ardent anti-communist and a founder of the archconservative John Birch Society.

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