America’s first billionaire president is riding into the White House with populist support — and he’s bringing some billionaire friends with him.
One of them is distressed-asset investor Wilbur Ross, who is Trump’s pick for commerce secretary. The two have a history that spans more than 25 years.
In stepped Ross, then head of Rothschild Inc’s bankruptcy advising team, to represent bondholders, who were pondering forcing the casino into involuntary bankruptcy and ousting Trump. Ross reportedly saw crowds pressed against Trump’s limo windows to get a peek at the mogul and realized the value of Trump’s celebrity.
He struck a prepackaged bankruptcy deal: Trump would give up 50% of his stake in the Taj but would receive better debt terms and would remain in control. The Donald was back in business: He ultimately made similar deals for his other troubled properties and climbed out of debt and back onto the Forbes 400.
Ross went into private equity in 2000, forming WL Ross & Co. He still runs it, but he sold it to investment firm Invesco in 2006 for some $375 million. In 2013 Invesco partnered with Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and others to buy 5 industrial properties from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Brooklyn for $240 million.
Nearly all of Trump’s wealth is tied up in real estate, but he has also owned stocks. One holding, according to a May 2016 filing: $250,000-$500,000 worth of Invesco European Growth Fund Class Y shares. (Trump claims to have sold his stock holdings in June, though he has not provided evidence to support the claim.)
Trump and Ross are also neighbors in both Florida and New York. Not only is Ross’ 16,000-square-foot home just up the road from Trump’s 126-room Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, but the two also share a 57th-Street address in Manhattan. Ross’ penthouse is just two blocks from the president-elect’s Trump Tower triplex.
For those seeking influence in Washington, the president’s cabinet is the highest echelon. While concerns about potential conflicts of interest mount, one person who will have the Commander-in-Chief’s ear is his billionaire pal Ross. Will Trump and Ross’ latest deal be good for America’s balance sheets, or their own?