Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Everything you need to know

Everything you need to know about Donald Trump's new commerce secretary.

ByABC News
February 27, 2017, 7:51 PM

— -- Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was confirmed as the United States' new secretary of commerce Monday by a 72-27 margin in the Senate.

Ross, 78, made a fortune restructuring failed companies in the manufacturing and steel industries, among others, earning him the moniker, the “King of Bankruptcy.”

Prior to his nomination by President Donald Trump, he worked as chairman and chief strategist of the equity firm W.L. Ross and Co.

Ross is hailed as a hero by some for saving failing industries but critics have likened the business practice to being a "vulture investor," though Ross himself disdains the term, according to a 2004 New York Magazine profile, which also noted that he prefers the description “a phoenix that rebuilds itself from the ashes.”

Here's what you need to know about Ross:

Name and Age: Wilbur Ross Jr., 78

Party: Ross was a noted donor to Republicans during this election cycle. However, Ross was a registered Democrat in the 1990s.

Hometown: Weehawken, New Jersey

What he used to do: Chairman and chief strategist of private equity firm W.L. Ross and Co. The company invests billions in restructuring businesses in the steel and manufacturing industries that have declared bankruptcy.

What you might not know about him:

Ross is known for his robust art collection, and once lent a painting by famed Belgian artist René François Ghislain Magritte to the Tate Liverpool and the Albertina in Vienna. Ross owns 25 Magritte paintings reportedly worth $100 million, according to an estimate by Forbes.

Ross' relationship with Trump dates back to the 1990s when he represented investors who were considering whether to remove Trump from his position as head of his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. Ross reportedly was a leading advocate in claiming the casinos would remain profitable if Trump were to stay on -- allowing Trump to save his image, according to The New York Times. Trump sold his interest in the Trump Taj Mahal in 2009. The casino closed in October of this year after enduring years of losses.

History regarding 2016 election/Trump support:

Ross said in March of 2016 that he was planning to vote for Donald Trump.

"I think the reason why the Trump phenomenon has become so important ... is because middle-class and lower-middle-class America has not really benefited by the last 10 to 15 years of economic activity and they're sick and tired of it and they want something different," Ross told CNBC at the time.

He went on to become a close economic adviser to Trump through his presidential campaign and a public advocate for him in business circles.


As the owner of the Sago mine, Wilbur Ross was accused by miners and their families of ignoring safety regulations that cost the lives of 12 miners in the 2006 Sago mine disaster. Days after the mine explosion, ABC News' Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross had a sit-down interview with the billionaire in which he defended his company's management of the mine even with multiple warning signs in the form of previously-issued safety citations.**

In August of this year, Wilbur Ross' company paid out a $2.3 million civil penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission after the SEC charged the company for not disclosing its fee practices to funds it advised and to investors. The company paid the fine “without admitting or denying the findings," according to the SEC.**

In 2014, Ross told Bloomberg TV he believed the top 1 percent of wealthiest individuals in the country were "being picked on for political purposes" when asked about real estate magnate Sam Zell’s comments that the 1 percent "should be emulated."**