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David Koch is leaving Koch Industries, stepping down from Americans for Prosperity

David Koch, of Koch Industries, attending Time magazine’s gala celebrating its “100 Most Influential People” in New York, April 21, 2015. (Krista Schlueter/Copyright 2018 The New York Times)

David Koch, one of the two billionaire brothers at the helm of the powerful conservative political network, 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 employees of Koch Industries on Tuesday that David Koch's health has been in decline since he was hospitalized 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 in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. "As a result, he is unable to be involved in business and other organizational activities. . . . David has always been a fighter and is dealing with this challenge in the same way."

David Koch's departure will change the makeup 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 President Donald Trump's.

Mark Holden, who has spent a career at Koch Industries and now helps run their political efforts, said in an email the Koch network will 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, 78, did not attend the network's winter seminar earlier this year. His brother Charles, 82, has appeared in recent months to pick up some of the slack left over by his brother's illness.

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

David Koch, who now lives in New York, was raised in Wichita, Kansas. He earned two degrees in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s. He and his wife, Julia Flesher Koch, have been married more than 20 years and have three children.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer 25 years ago, and he has given vast sums toward cancer research in the quarter century since then. For instance, he provided $217 million to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, including $150 million for a new outpatient medical facility. He gifted $128 million to New York Presbyterian Hospital, $26.5 million to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, $26.2 million to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, $20 million to Johns Hopkins University, $10 million to Mount Sinai Medical Center and $10 million to the children's hospital at Stanford University for allergy research.

According to an official bio, David Koch has pledged or contributed a total of more than $1.3 billion to assist causes from cancer research to medical centers, educational institutions, arts and cultural institutions and public policy organizations. The money has come through personal gifts and the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation. This includes $185 million to MIT, his alma mater. His representatives say he has provided more than $300 million in additional charitable support, beyond the $1.3 billion, for other causes - including help for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

But while the Koch name is on a lot of 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 $100 billion, operates pipelines and produces fertilizer but also manufactures everything from Dixie cups to Quilted Northern toilet paper. It is the second largest privately-held company in the United States. Charles Koch said David Koch will now get the title of "Director Emeritus."

Story by James Hohmann. Hohmann is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post. He is the author of The Daily 202, The Post's flagship political newsletter, and the voice of its affiliated Big Idea audio briefing. Hohmann covered local news for The Post in the aughts and returned in 2015 after six years at Politico.