Ross, 78, helped shape the president-elect’s economic agenda during his campaign, especially his aggressive stance on renegotiating or withdrawing from free trade agreements. Nicknamed the “king of bankruptcy” by Fortune magazine, Ross is the chairman of WL Ross & Co, which specializes in purchasing distressed companies.
Ross is a businessman in the mold of Trump himself. Known as a sharp negotiator, Ross became wealthy by spotting opportunity in purchasing bankrupt companies in declining industries such as steel, including LTV Corp. in Ohio and Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania. He is known for doing the same with failing mining company Horizon Natural Resources, restructuring it and selling it to Arch Coal in 2011 for $3.4 billion. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, he invested $1.8 billion in faltering banks, from Florida’s BankUnited to several European banks.
Ross, who is worth $2.9 billion according to Forbes, is one of several wealthy conservatives being tapped by Trump to lead his administration’s top agencies. On Wednesday, Trump announced that he would nominate billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos, an heir to the Amway Corp. fortune, to head his Education Department. He is also reportedly looking to choose Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts to be deputy secretary of the Commerce Department. Ricketts comes from an influential family of conservative donors who originally supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for president, then poured money into an anti-Trump super PAC.
Trump met with Ross last Sunday at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. They talked about trade deals, job creation and American manufacturing, Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on a call.
Asked whether an announcement was forthcoming on Ross’ nomination for commerce secretary on Friday, Miller said the timing was up to the president-elect.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled the last name of Trump nominee Betsy DeVos.