Wilbur Ross

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Wilbur Ross
Wilbur Ross Official Portrait (cropped).jpg
39th United States Secretary of Commerce
Assumed office
February 28, 2017
President Donald Trump
Preceded by Penny Pritzker
Second Gentleman of New York
In office
December 7, 1995 – December 31, 1999
Preceded by Sara Lundine
Succeeded by Anthony Ricci
Personal details
Born Wilbur Louis Ross Jr.
(1937-11-28) November 28, 1937 (age 79)
Weehawken, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic (Before 2016)
Republican (2016–present)
Spouse(s) Judith Nodine (1961–1995)
Betsy McCaughey (1995–2000)
Hilary Geary (2004–present)
Children 2 daughters (with Nodine)
Education Yale University (BA)
Harvard University (MBA)
Net worth US$2.5 billion (December

Wilbur Louis Ross Jr. (born November 28, 1937) is an American investor and politician who is currently the 39th United States Secretary of Commerce, under the Trump Administration. Ross was confirmed by the Senate by a 72-27 vote to be the Commerce Secretary.[2] He was a banker, known for restructuring failed companies in industries such as steel, coal, telecommunications, foreign investment and textiles. He specializes in leveraged buyouts and distressed businesses. As of February 2017, Forbes magazine has reported that Ross has a net worth of $2.5 billion.[1]

Ross is known as the "King of Bankruptcy" for his experience in buying bankrupt companies, primarily in the manufacturing and steel industries, and later selling them for a large profit after operations improve.[3]

On November 24, 2016, it was reported by the Associated Press that Ross would be nominated for United States Secretary of Commerce by the incoming Trump Administration.[4] The Trump transition team confirmed Trump's intent to nominate him on November 30, 2016.[5] On February 27, 2017, he was confirmed by the United States Senate in a 72–27 vote.[6]

Early life[edit]

Ross was born on November 28, 1937[7] in Weehawken, New Jersey,[7] and grew up in suburban New Jersey. His father, Wilbur Louis Ross Sr., was a lawyer who later became a judge, and his mother, Agnes (née O'Neill), was a school teacher.[7]

Ross drove two hours a day from New Jersey to attend the Catholic college preparatory Xavier High School in Manhattan. He ran track and was captain of the rifle team. He earned a BA degree 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. He earned his MBA degree at Harvard Business School.[8]


Rothschild Investments[edit]

In the late 1970s, Ross began 24 years at the New York City office of N M Rothschild & Sons, where he ran the bankruptcy-restructuring advisory practice.[7][9]

Representation of investors in casinos owned by Donald Trump[edit]

In the 1980s, Donald Trump found himself in financial trouble with regard to his casinos in Atlantic City. His three casinos in Atlantic City were under foreclosure threat from lenders. Ross, then senior managing director of Rothschild Inc., represented investors in the casino. Along with Carl Icahn, Ross convinced bondholders to strike a deal with Trump that allowed Trump to keep control of the casinos.[9][10]

Establishment of WL Ross & Co.[edit]

In the late 1990s, Ross started a $200 million fund at Rothschild to invest in distressed assets. As the U.S. bubble began to burst, he decided he wanted to invest more and advise less. In 2000, the 62-year-old banker raised $450 million to buy out the fund from Rothschild and make further investments in distressed assets.[7] The new firm was named WL Ross & Co.[9][7] Staff includes 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.[8] WL Ross & Co. was acquired by Amvescap (now Invesco) in 2006.[11]


International Steel Group (ISG)[edit]

In 2002, Ross founded International Steel Group after purchasing the assets of several bankrupt steel companies. Ross had support of the local steelworkers union, negotiating a deal with them to "save" Pennsylvania's steel industry.[8] Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers union stated about Ross that "he was open and accessible and candid and honest and he put a lot of money back into the mills, so literally tens of thousands of jobs were saved."[12] Ross sold International Steel Group to Mittal Steel Company for $4.5 billion, half in cash and half in stock, in April 2005.[13]

International Textile Group (ITG)[edit]

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. In 2005, Ross purchased 77.3% of Safety Components International for $51.2 million.[14] In 2006, Ross merged the firm into his International Textile Group.[15] International Textile Group was sold to private equity firm Platinum Equity in 2016.[16]

International Automotive Components Group (IAC)[edit]

International Automotive Components Group was formed in 2006 by Ross and investment funds managed by Franklin Mutual Advisers.[17] In 2006, International Automotive Components Group purchased the European operations of Lear Corporation.[18] In 2005-2007, IAC purchased several divisions of Collins & Aikman.[19] In September 2005, investors led by Ross made a $100 million investment in Oxford Automotive in exchange for approximately 25% of the company.[20] In 2006, Oxford merged with Wagon Automotive.[21]

International Coal Group (ICG)[edit]

Ross founded the International Coal Group, which was formed after several coal companies went bankrupt. The United Mine Workers of America protested the bankruptcy reorganization as it led to changes in health care and pensions for the existing employees.[22] Arch Coal purchased International Coal Group for $3.4 billion in 2011.[23]

Settlements and fines[edit]

In February 2014, Ross paid $81 million to settle a lawsuit brought by shareholders that Ross breached his fiduciary duty when engineering the merger of two companies that he majority-owned: Safety Components International Inc. and International Textile Group Inc.[24]

In August 2016, Ross agreed to reimburse investors $11.8 million and pay a fine of $2.3 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission probe into the overcharging of fees by WL Ross & Co.[25]

Sago Mine disaster[edit]

The Sago Mine disaster was a 2006 explosion in a coal mine indirectly owned by International Coal Group that led to the deaths of 12 miners. Following the 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.[26]

Political activities[edit]

Ross is a Democrat by upbringing.[27]

He served under U.S. President Bill Clinton on the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund.

Later, under New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Ross served as the Mayor's privatization advisor.[28]

In January 1998 he put $2.25 million in seed money into the campaign of his then-wife, Republican Betsy McCaughey Ross.[27]

Although he was an early supporter of Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Ross in earlier years was a registered Democrat, served as an officer of the New York State Democratic Party, and held fundraisers for Democratic candidates at his apartment in New York City. Since at least 2011, Ross began donating to Republican candidates and organizations, and became a registered Republican in November 2016.[29]

Political views[edit]

Ross has stated "I am not anti-trade. I am pro-trade, but I'm pro-sensible trade. [Being anti-trade] is a disadvantage of the American worker and the American manufacturing community."[27]

Ross has stated that the government "should provide access to our markets to those countries who play fair, play by the rules and give everybody a fair chance to compete. Those who do not should not get away with it -they should be punished and severely."[27]

Ross has stated that he was initially in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but after examining the agreement, he said it was "not consistent with what was advertised."[27]

Organizational memberships and directorships[edit]

Ross is a hall of fame member and past director of the Turnaround Management Association.[30]

As of January 2012, Ross was the leader (or “Grand Swipe”) of the secret Wall Street fraternity, Kappa Beta Phi.[31]

He serves on the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution.[32]

He is also on the board of advisors of Yale School of Management. He donated $10 million for the construction of Evans Hall at the Yale School of Management.[33]

Since 2014, Ross has been the vice-chairman of the board of Bank of Cyprus PCL, the largest bank in Cyprus.[34]

Secretary of Commerce[edit]

Secretary Wilbur Ross addresses to employees on March 1st, 2017

On November 24, 2016, it was reported by the Associated Press that Ross would be nominated for United States Secretary of Commerce by the incoming Trump Administration. The Trump transition team confirmed Trump's intent to nominate him on November 30, 2016. On February 27 2017, he was confirmed by the United States Senate in a 72–27 vote. He assumed office on February 28, 2017.


In 1999 Ross was awarded the Order of Industrial Service Merit medal by South Korea's President Kim Dae Jung for his assistance during the 1998 Korean financial crisis.[35]

Ross began working with Ireland and Irish-American causes starting in 2011 with an investment in the struggling Bank of Ireland. In recognition for his efforts on November 6, 2014 Ross was awarded the American Irish Historical Society Gold Medal at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York. The medal is awarded to "individuals who make an especially meritorious contribution to Irish American Life".[36][37]

Ross was awarded the medal of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star by Japanese Ambassador Sumio Kusaka on behalf of the Japanese government at Kusaka's New York residence on February 2, 2015.[38] This was in recognition for strengthening the bonds between Japan and the USA (including his service as Chairman of the Board of New York's Japan Society, which had begun in 2010 after being on its board of directors since 2005), his work to promote and strengthen the Japanese economy, and his relief efforts after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.[39][40]

Personal life[edit]

Ross married Judith Nodine in 1961; they had two daughters, and divorced in 1995.[41] His second wife was former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey; they married in 1995, and divorced in 2000.[8][41]

On October 9, 2004, Ross married his third wife, Hilary Geary, a society writer for Quest magazine.[42]

He now lives in Palm Beach, Florida.[citation needed]

Art collection[edit]

Ross owns an art collection conservatively valued at $150 million that includes pieces ranging from Western surrealists to contemporary Eastern sculptures.[43] Ross owns 25 works by René Magritte, valued at $100 million, including some of the artist's most valuable paintings such as The Pilgrim.[43]


  1. ^ a b "Wilbur Ross, Jr". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  2. ^ Egan, Matt (2017-02-27). "Wilbur Ross approved by Senate as Trump's commerce secretary". CNNMoney. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  3. ^ John Parkinson (January 18, 2017). "'King of Bankruptcy' Wilbur Ross Grilled on Trade, Climate Change and Infrastructure During Confirmation Hearing". ABC News. 
  4. ^ Boak, Josh (November 24, 2016). "Trump taps billionaire investor Ross for commerce secretary". Associated Press. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  5. ^ Zarroli, Jim (November 30, 2016). "Trump Taps Billionaire Investor Wilbur Ross For Commerce Secretary". NPR. Retrieved November 30, 2016. 
  6. ^ "U.S. Senate: Roll Call Vote". www.senate.gov. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Gross, Daniel (8 November 2004). "The Bottom Feeder King". New York Magazine. 37 (39): 22. Archived from the original on 30 November 2016. Retrieved 22 November 2016. 
  8. ^ a b c d Byrnes, Nanette. "Is Wilbur Ross Crazy?" (December 22, 2003). Bloomberg Business Week. 
  9. ^ a b c "What You Need To Know About Commerce Secretary Pick Wilbur Ross, Trump's Billionaire Pal". Fortune Magazine. November 20, 2016. 
  10. ^ Collins, JC. "How Rothschild Inc. Saved Donald Trump". PhilosophyOfMetrics.com. Philosophy of Metrics. Retrieved 22 November 2016. 
  11. ^ Benner, Katie. "Wilbur Ross Sells Out". The Street. Retrieved October 8, 2014. 
  12. ^ Arnold, Chris (December 14, 2016). "Wilbur Ross: The Best Commerce Secretary Pick Dems Could Hope For?". NPR. 
  13. ^ Kosman, Josh (October 8, 2014). "Wilbur Ross Sells Out". The New York Post. 
  14. ^ "Wilbur Ross Buys 77.3% of Safety Components International from Zapata Corp. for $51.2 Million" (Press release). PRNewswire. September 26, 2005. 
  15. ^ "International Textile Group, Inc. and Safety Components International, Inc. Announce Agreement to Combine" (Press release). PRNewswire. August 30, 2006. 
  16. ^ "International Textile Group Acquired By Platinum Equity" (Press release). PRNewswire. October 24, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Wilbur Ross-backed International Automotive Components files for $115 million IPO". Reuters. June 14, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Lear Corp. working on IAC deal with W.L. Ross". Plastics News. December 4, 2006. 
  19. ^ "Ross completes deal for Collins & Aikman operations". Automotive News. October 12, 2007. 
  20. ^ "Wilbur Ross-Led Investors To Provide Oxford Automotive USD $100 Million of New Equity" (Press release). PRNewswire. September 15, 2005. 
  21. ^ "Oxford Automotive, Wagon merge". Automotive News. March 20, 2006. 
  22. ^ James Dao (October 24, 2004). "Miners' Benefits Vanish With Bankruptcy Ruling". New York Times. 
  23. ^ "Arch Coal Completes Acquisition of International Coal Group" (Press release). June 15, 2011. 
  24. ^ Benjamin Horney (February 20, 2014). "$81M Settlement In Wilbur Ross Merger Case Wins Initial OK". 
  25. ^ Josh Kosman (August 25, 2016). "SEC slaps Wilbur Ross for misallocating fees". The New York Post. 
  26. ^ Boyd, Roddy. "N.Y. Exec knew of problems: Ex-Honchos". New York Post (January 5, 2006). 
  27. ^ a b c d e Daniel Gross. "The Bottom-Feeder King". New York Magazine. 
  28. ^ "Yale School of Management | Educating Leaders for Business and Society". Mba.yale.edu. 2016-11-18. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  29. ^ "Trump Commerce Pick Ross Was Registered Democrat Until Mid-Nov.". www.newsmax.com. 2016-11-30. Retrieved 2016-12-12. 
  30. ^ "Turnaround, Restructuring, and Distressed Investing Industry Hall of Fame". New York Magazine. 
  31. ^ Roose, Kevin. "One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society". New York Magazine. Retrieved 19 February 2014. 
  32. ^ "Board of Trustees". Brookings. Retrieved 2016-12-20. 
  33. ^ "Three Yale alums among Trump's Cabinet picks". December 5, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Wilbur L. Ross, Jr (Vice-Chairman) - Bank of Cyprus Group". www.bankofcyprus.com. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  35. ^ "Biography of Wilbur L. Ross, Jr.". University of Pennsylvania, Wharton. 
  36. ^ James Walsh (October 8, 2014). "Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. honored by the American Irish Historical Society". 
  37. ^ "Wiblur Ross '55". Xavier Magazine. September 30, 2015. p. 17. 
  38. ^ Marshall Heyman (February 3, 2015). "A Japanese Knight? Well, Close Enough". The Wall Street Journal. 
  39. ^ "The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star - Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Chairman, Japan Society". Consulate General of Japan in New York. 
  40. ^ Susan Miyagi Hamaker (February 7, 2015). "Japan Society Chairman Honored by Japanese Government". Japan Culture NYC. 
  41. ^ a b "Wilbur Ross Fast Facts". CNN. Retrieved 24 November 2016. 
  42. ^ Cowan, Alison Leigh (October 17, 2004). "Weddings: Hilary Geary and Wilbur Ross Jr.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-24. 
  43. ^ a b Chen, Liyan (8 October 2013). "Billionaire Art Collector Wilbur Ross Loves Magrittes, Paid $100 Million For His Own". Forbes Magazine. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Penny Pritzker
United States Secretary of Commerce
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Sonny Perdue
as Secretary of Agriculture
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
as Secretary of Labor
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Sonny Perdue
as Secretary of Agriculture
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as Secretary of Commerce
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