Wilbur Ross, the billionaire turnaround investor and founder of WL Ross & Co., has been confirmed as commerce secretary and becomes the first private equity professional to join the Trump administration.
Ross was confirmed in a 72-27 vote in Washington by the US senate on Monday and is exepcted to be sworn in to the position on Tuesday.
The chairman and chief strategy officer of New York-headquartered WL Ross has been an “important champion for US-struggling industries in the private sectors” and will bring his private sector expertise to work on behalf of the American people, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing on Monday ahead of the confirmation.
In a Twitter post on 3 January, Ross said he would restore fair trade and stand up for US jobs if he was confirmed as commerce secretary.
Ross’s confirmation means the private equity investor now represents the voice of US business within the cabinet and heads a nearly 47,000-strong department that promotes job creation, economic growth, sustainable development and US living standards.
Trump's pick for commerce secretary had been one of the few private equity industry professionals to openly support the Republican candidate during his campaign. As head of Rothschild's bankruptcy advisory team, Ross struck a deal between Trump and bondholders, allowing him to keep half of his stake in his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City and remain in control of the company.
Ross founded WL Ross in 2000 to focus on distressed debt investing and later sold the firm to investment manager Invesco in 2006. WL Ross made headlines in 2016 when it paid $2.3 million to settle charges with the US Securities and Exchange Commission over fee disclosure.
In 2014, Ross stepped down from his full-time role at the firm, which is now led by co-heads Stephen Toy, a founding member of the firm, and Gregory Stoeckle, previously president and managing director of Invesco Senior Secured Management.
WL Ross has $4.6 billion in assets under management according to PEI data. Its latest flagship vehicle, the 2014-vintage WLR Recovery Fund VI, is aiming to raise as much as $2 billion and will mirror its predecessors’ strategy of focusing on control investments in sectors including healthcare, energy, metals and mining, transportation equipment and services, and banking and financial services, according to PEI data.
The predecessor fund, the 2010-vintage $2.2 billion WLR Recovery Fund V, was backed by investors including Oregon State Treasury, University of California Regents Endowment Fund and State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio, according to PEI data.