Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Full Name: David Hamilton Koch
Born: May 3, 1940
Born Place: Wichita, Kansas, U.S.
Died: August 23, 2019 (aged 79)
Death Place: Southampton, New York, U.S.
Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (BS, MS)
Occupation: Vice president of Koch Industries
Known for: Philanthropy to cultural and medical institutions, Support of libertarian and conservative causes
Net worth: US$48 billion (June 2019)
Political party: Libertarian (before 1984)
Spouse(s): Julia Flesher Koch (m. 1996)
Parent(s): Fred C. Koch
Relatives: Frederick R. Koch (brother)
Charles Koch (brother)
Bill Koch (twin brother)
David Hamilton Koch (May 3, 1940 – August 23, 2019) was an American businessman, philanthropist, political activist, and chemical engineer. In 1970, he joined the family business: Koch Industries, the largest privately held company in the United States. He became president of the subsidiary Koch Engineering in 1979, and became a co-owner of Koch Industries (along with elder brother Charles) in 1983. Koch served as an executive vice president of Koch Industries until he retired due to health issues in 2018.
Koch was a libertarian. He was the 1980 Libertarian candidate for Vice President of the United States and helped finance the campaign. He founded Citizens for a Sound Economy and donated to advocacy groups and political campaigns, most of which were Republican. Koch became a Republican in 1984; in 2012, he spent over $100 million in a failed bid to oppose the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Koch was the fourth-richest person in the United States in 2012 and was the wealthiest resident of New York City in 2013. As of June 2019, Koch was ranked as the 11th-richest person in the world (tied with his brother Charles), with a fortune of $50.5 billion. Koch contributed to the Lincoln Center, Sloan Kettering, NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, and the Dinosaur Wing at the American Museum of Natural History. The New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, home of the New York City Ballet, was renamed the David H. Koch Theater in 2008 following Koch’s gift of $100 million for the renovation of the theater.
Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, the son of Mary Clementine (née Robinson) and Fred Chase Koch, a chemical engineer. David’s paternal grandfather, Harry Koch, was a Dutch immigrant who founded the Quanah Tribune-Chief newspaper and was a founding shareholder of the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway. David was the third of four sons, with elder brothers Frederick, Charles, and nineteen-minute-younger twin Bill. His maternal ancestors included William Ingraham Kip, an Episcopal bishop; William Burnet Kinney, a politician; and Elizabeth Clementine Stedman, a writer.
Koch attended the Deerfield Academy prep school in Massachusetts, graduating in 1959. He attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), earning both a bachelor’s (1962) and a master’s degree (1963) in chemical engineering. He was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Koch played basketball at MIT, averaging 21 points per game at MIT over three years, a school record. He also held the single-game scoring record of 41 points from 1962 until 2009, when it was eclipsed by Jimmy Bartolotta.
Koch was the fourth-richest person in the United States in 2012 and was the wealthiest resident of New York City in 2013. As of June 2019, Koch was ranked as the 11th-richest person in the world (tied with his brother Charles), with a fortune of $50.5 billion.
In February 1991, Koch was a passenger on board USAir Flight 1493 when it collided with another aircraft on a runway at Los Angeles International Airport, killing 35 people. Koch survived and said in an interview in 2014 that it helped change his life and prompted him to become “tremendously philanthropic”.
In 1992, Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He underwent radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy, but the cancer repeatedly returned. Koch said he believed his experience with cancer encouraged him to fund medical research.
Following Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ death in 1994, Koch purchased her 15-room apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue. In 1996 he married Julia Flesher; The apartment wasn’t roomy enough after the birth of their third child, so Koch sold it to billionaire Glenn Dubin in 2006 and moved with his family to 740 Park Avenue.
Koch died at his home in Southampton, New York, on August 23, 2019, at the age of 79. Koch’s wife, Julia Koch, and their three children inherited a 42% stake in Koch Industries from Koch upon his death.