David Koch is the billionaire and conservative political activist who died on August 23 at the age of 79. Koch’s death was first reported by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. A feature written by Mayer in 2018 estimated that Koch had donated $1.2 billion to philanthropic causes.
Koch is survived by his wife, Julia Flesher, a native of Iowa, whom he married in 1996.
Koch was born in Wichita, Kansas, in May 1940 as the third of four sons born to Fred Chase Koch and Mary Robinson.
In June 2018, around the time of his retirement announcement, Koch had been named by Forbes as the 11th-richest person in the world with a net worth estimated to be around $51 billion.
Together with his brother, Charles, Koch ran Koch Industries, an energy and chemicals company out of Nebraska. The company had been founded by their father, Fred Koch. The family name is pronounced “coke.”
In a statement announcing his brother’s death, Charles Koch said, “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.” Charles Koch had said before that his brother had shared his “declining health” diagnosis with family members in October 2016.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Koch Said That His Experience With Prostate Cancer Led to Him Funding Medical Research
Koch had been first diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 1992. Koch said that thanks to his experiences with radiation therapy and surgery, he had been encouraged to donate to medical research causes, according to a Weekly Standard feature.
Despite his well-known political leanings, Koch said that he was socially liberal, according to MSNBC. Among the political causes that Koch founded were the Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners and Concerned Veterans for America. In a 2011 interview with the Weekly Standard, Koch said of President Barack Obama, “[He’s] the most radical president we’ve ever had as a nation… [He’s] done more damage to the free enterprise system and long-term prosperity than any president we’ve ever had.”
2. Koch Survived a Plane Crash that Killed 33 People
Koch was onboard USAir Flight 1493 when it collided with another plane on the runway of Los Angeles International Airport in February 1991. In total, 33 people were killed in the disaster.
Koch wrote an editorial about his experiences onboard the flight in the New York Times in March 1991. In 2014, Koch described the plane crash has helping to change his life in an interview with ABC News. In 1993, Koch submitted his account of the crash to the National Transportation Safety Board.
3. His Wife Was ‘Much Admired’ for Marrying One of the Richest Men in America
The New York Times wrote in 1998 that Julia Flesher was “much-admired in her Upper East Side circle for marrying one of the richest men in America.”
The final tweet on David Koch’s account, from 2014, said that he and his wife had donated $1 million to the September 11. Memorial Museum. According to the couple’s New York Times wedding announcement, they were married at Koch’s home in Southampton, Long Island. Prior to their marriage, Julia Flesher, had been an assistant at an Adolfo shoe store.
4. Koch Ran to Be Vice President in 1980
In 1980, David Koch was nominated as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate, alongside Ed Clark. The pair received one percent of the vote. Among the platforms that the pair ran on, via Senator Bernie Sanders, were the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid, repealing of campaign finance laws, dismantling the postal service, removing the Federal Reserve board, doing away with corporate taxes and minimum wages as well as repealing federal campaign finance laws.
The election saw Ronald Reagan go on to defeat Democrat Jimmy Carter.
5. Koch Liked ‘Having A Lot Women Around’ in His Younger Days
Cindy Farkas Glanzrock, who said that she was one of David Koch’s former girlfriends, told The Observer in 2012 that she was just one of the “many girls that he had dates with… He liked having a lot of women around.” In the article, Glanzrock defended Koch saying, “I think we constantly are looking at things in a very negative perspective and pointing fingers. I mean, I’ve known David Koch for 25 years. I will tell you that I dated him, but you’ll probably throw a target at me, but probably other women in this room have too. The bottom line is, and first of all, I think people should see this, but I’m very disappointed.”
Discussing women in a 2010 New York Magazine feature, Koch complained about pains in his knees while joking, “If you spent as many years as I did begging girls for favors, you’d have bad knees, too.” A New Yorker feature on his retirement described Koch as being “more socially prominent” than his brother.