Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. (November 28, 1937) is an American investor known for restructuring failed companies in industries such as steel, coal, telecommunications, foreign investment and textiles. He specializes in leveraged buyouts and distressed businesses. In 2011, Forbes magazine listed Ross as one of the world's billionaires with a net worth of $1.9 billion. According to a recent New York Times article, he has been bottom-fishing in mortgages and mortgage companies. He apparently commands far greater sums than his net worth would suggest.
Ross was born in Weehawken, New Jersey and grew up well off in suburban New Jersey. His father was a lawyer and his mother a schoolteacher. He serves on the board of advisors of Yale School of Management. His second wife was former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross, whom he divorced in 2000.
Ross drove two hours a day from New Jersey to attend the elite Catholic college preparatory Xavier High School in Manhattan. He ran track and was captain of the rifle team. He earned a B.A. from Yale College, which was also his father's alma mater. At Yale, Ross edited one of the literary magazines and worked at the radio station. Initially, he wanted to be a writer, but after his experience in a fiction class requiring 500 words daily, he concluded that he had "run out of material." His faculty adviser at Yale helped him get his first summer job on Wall Street. Ross earned his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School.
"Starting in the mid-'70s, Ross built his reputation as the country's foremost bankruptcy adviser. Ross saw himself as cleaning up the messy results of Michael Milken's junk-bond financings, but by 1997 he wanted to do more than just cajole others into doing it his way. For three years he ran a private-equity fund within Rothschild. But Ross couldn't invest in deals on which the firm was advising, shutting him out of one in three bankruptcies."
WL Ross & Co.
In 2000, Ross bought out his equity fund and opened WL Ross & Co. in New York with $440 million in investor money and a staff that included four top managers who, along with Ross, make up the firm's investment committee: David H. Storper, who runs trading; David L. Wax, a longtime workout specialist; Stephen J. Toy, an Asia expert; and Pamela K. Wilson, a J.P. Morgan & Co. veteran. Companies in this group include American Home Mortgage Servicing, which seems to be attempting to return to profitability by modifying the loans of delinquent homeowners. The company recently added servicing of 185,000 loans from Citibank.
International Steel Group
Wilbur Ross at first had support of the local Steelworkers Union, negotiating a deal with them to "save" Pennsylvania's steel industry.
International Textile Group (ITG)
Ross combined Burlington Industries and Cone Mills in 2004 to form International Textile Group. ITG operates five businesses, all of which operate under separate brand names: Cone Denim, Burlington Apparel Fabrics, Home Furnishings, Carlisle Finishing and Nano-Tex. The company entered into a five-year, $150 million credit facility led by Bank of America. Other lenders in the bank group included GE Capital and CIT Group. Corporate offices are located in Greensboro in the previous Cone Mills headquarters building and in an adjacent office complex.
International Automotive Components Group (IAC)
Wilbur L. Ross, Chairman of International Automotive Components Group ("IAC"), announced on Oct 16, 2006 the completion of the previously announced acquisition of Lear Corporation's European Interiors Systems Division on a debt-free basis in exchange for 34% of the stock in IAC. The transaction will expand IAC's presence in Europe to 20 facilities in 9 countries with approximately $1.2 billion in annual revenues. In early 2007, Lear completed the transfer of substantially all of its former North American Interior Systems Division to International Automotive Components Group North America. The deal involved 26 manufacturing plants and two Chinese joint ventures. Lear also contributed $27 million in cash for a 25% interest in IAC North America and warrants for an additional 7%.
Collins & Aikman Europe
On November 28, 2005 the joint venture by Ross, Franklin Mutual Advisers, and Lear Corporation, announced an agreement to acquire from Collins & Aikman Europe ("C&A") its $600 million operations in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom serving Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Saab, Volkswagen, Volvo and other original equipment manufacturers. The exchange is subject to approval of the local insolvency authority and the Austrian Court.
Wilbur L. Ross, Chairman of IAC said, "We are delighted to make IAC's first acquisition within a month of announcing the joint venture company. We also are appreciative that the automobile industry has decided to support our efforts. This is the start of a major global factor in the automotive interior plastics industry."
The Joint Venture has also bought the subsidiary of C&A in Brazil.
Safety Components International
On December 2, 2005, Zapata Corp. Chairman, Avie Glazer, announced the sale of 4,162,394 shares, 77.3%, of Safety Components International to Ross for $51.2 million. Safety Components, an independent manufacturer of air bag fabrics and cushions, is headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina and has plants located in North America, Europe, China and South Africa.
International Coal Group
Ross founded the International Coal Group, which has now gone public. His relationship with the UMWA has not been friendly; they have bitterly protested the bankruptcy regulations that had allowed him to set up the International Coal Group free of labor unions, health care and pensions.
Sago Mine disaster
Following the Sago Mine disaster, the New York Post's Roddy Boyd reported that Ross "had been intimately involved with the company that owned the West Virginia mine where 12 miners perished — and he knew all about its safety problems, former executives charged." The article also reported that the mine had 12 roof collapses in 2005, and that the U.S. Department of Labor data showed 208 citations for safety violations in that same period, including 21 times for build-up of toxic gasses. Despite these figures, Ross refused to shut down the mine. The Department of Labor and the State of West Virginia, as well as Congress are currently investigating the disaster.
Ross has served under U.S. President Bill Clinton on the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, and later, under New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the Mayor's privatization advisor. January 1998 he put $2.25 million in seed money into McCaughey Ross's campaign.
- Self-provided biographical information from Bloomberg Professional terminal.
- Wilbur Ross - Forbes, Forbes.com. Accessed May 2011.
- Investors Stalk the Wounded of Wall Street  retrieved on 2008-04-06.
- Byrnes, Nanette. "Is Wilbur Ross Crazy?". Business Week (December 22, 2003).
- "AHMSI Acquires 185,000 Citi Mortgages". 2009.
- "Mittal Making Progress in Takeover of Arcelor, Wilbur Ross Says". Bloomberg.com (February 16, 2006).
- "Ross completes ITG integration". The Business Journal of the Greater (NC) Triad Area (August 3, 2004).
- Lear MediaRoom - News Releases
- "International Auto Components Buys Collins & Aikman Europe". International Auto Components. PR Newswire. 2005-11-28.
- "Zapata Corporation Completes Sale of 77.3% of Safety Components International, Inc. to Wilbur Ross for $51.2 Million". Houston Chronicle.
- Seawright, Stephen (February 21, 2006). "American billionaire jumps on Birmingham's Wagon". The Daily Telegraph (London) (February 21, 2006).
- Boyd, Roddy. "N.Y. Exec knew of problems: Ex-Honchos". New York Post (January 5, 2006).
- "Yale School of Management Board of Advisors: Wilbur L. Ross Jr".
- "Member Profile: Wilbur L. Ross, Jr".
- Bennett, Jeff. "Wilbur Ross Says His Auto-Parts Acquisition Spree Has Far to Go". Bloomberg (March 30, 2006).
- Gross, Daniel. "The Bottom-Feeder King". New York Magazine (November 8, 2004).
- Stein, Nicholas. "Wilbur Ross Is A Man Of Steel ...and textiles and optical networking and anything else in deep, deep trouble". Fortune (May 26, 2003). More than one of
- Pollack, Andrew. "The Man (and the System) behind the Mining Murders". Monthly Review Website (January 6, 2006).
- Gross, Daniel. "Is Wilbur Ross the next Andrew Carnegie?". Slate (January 16, 2003).
- Morning Edition (NPR) article - "Wilbur Ross: Finding His Calling" - September 15, 2008
- Profile at the Yale School of Management