Born In: Weehawken, New Jersey, United States
Wilbur Ross is an American investor who currently serves as the United States secretary of commerce. He is also known as the “King of Bankruptcy,” for reviving many failed companies and selling them for profit. He was born in New Jersey and graduated from a high school in Manhattan. He initially aspired to become a writer. While pursuing his bachelor’s degree from ‘Yale College,’ he served as the editor of a college magazine. However, he later dropped the idea of becoming a writer and joined ‘Harvard Business School,’ eventually obtaining an MBA degree. In 1976, he joined ‘Rothschild & Co.’ He worked there for the next 24 years and became instrumental in helping Donald Trump regain control over his casinos in the 1980s. In the early 2000s, he founded the ‘International Steel Group.’ He later sold it at a huge profit. In November 2016, President Donald Trump announced he wanted Wilbur to be the secretary of commerce in his cabinet. Wilbur thus became the oldest first-time cabinet member at 79. He has also received honors such as the ‘Order of the Rising Sun.’
Also Known As: Wilbur Louis Ross Jr.
Spouse/Ex-: Hilary Geary (m. 2004), Betsy McCaughey (m. 1995 - div. 2000), Judith Nodine (m. 1961 - div. 1995)
father: Wilbur Louis Ross Sr
mother: Agnes O'Neill
children: Amanda Ross, Jack Geary, Jessica Colby Ross, Ted Geary
Born Country: United States
U.S. State: New Jersey
education: Harvard Business School, Yale University, Xavier High School
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Wilbur Ross was born Wilbur Louis Ross Jr., on November 28, 1937, in Weehawken, New Jersey, U.S., to Wilbur Louis Ross and Agnes. His father was a lawyer, who eventually became a judge, and his mother worked as a school teacher for 4 decades.
Wilbur moved with his family to North Bergen when he was still quite young. Following his early education, he joined the ‘Xavier High School,’ which was a college preparatory school located in Manhattan. He was academically good and excelled in sports, too. He was the captain of the school rifle team and a track runner.
He also read a lot of books during his teenage years and aspired to become a writer. Following his high-school graduation in 1955, he joined ‘Yale College,’ where he pursued a bachelor’s degree. While in college, he served as an editor of a literary magazine and also worked for the college radio. He was all set to begin a career in either journalism or writing.
To hone his skills as a writer, he joined an English course. During his training, he was made to write almost 1,000 words every morning, which was something he could not handle. Hence, he dropped out of the course and also discarded the idea of becoming a writer.
He graduated from ‘Yale University’ in 1959, following which he was advised to work for a while at ‘Wall Street.’ Wilbur enjoyed working there and later joined ‘Harvard Business School’ to pursue an MBA. He graduated in 1961 and began his investment-banking career.
After obtaining his MBA degree, he began working for investment-banking and brokerage firms such as ‘Faulkner, Dawkins & Sullivan.’ His great track record as an employee got him promoted to the position of the president of its investment-banking department.
In the mid-1970s, he moved to New York City and began working for ‘Rothschild & Co.,’ a major investment-banking and financial-services company. He took care of the bankruptcy-restructuring division of the organization.
His main job was to work with bankrupt companies and make them revive themselves. When the companies began showing signs of improvement, they were sold at a profit. Working with ‘Rothschild & Co.’ over the next 24 years, he became one of the best-known bankers in the U.S.
In the late 1990s, while he was still working for the company, he started ‘WL Ross & Co.’ and invested in many distressed securities, gathering a fortune in the process.
In 2002, he founded the ‘International Steel Group.’ In 2005, after registering some good profits, he sold the company to the ‘Mittal Steel Company.’ Thus, he made 12.5 times the money he had invested as capital in his company. He also made a place on the board of directors of the company.
In 2006, he founded the ‘International Automotive Components Group’ and acquired a huge chunk of stocks in ‘Lear Corporation.’ In 2004, he founded the ‘International Coal Group’ after buying several coal companies at cheap prices. However, the ‘United Mine Workers of America’ protested, as this action could affect the healthcare and pensions of the employees.
In 2006, an accident occurred at the ‘Sago Coal Mine,’ leading to the death of 12 miners. The mine was indirectly owned by Wilbur. Thus, he came under scrutiny. However, he claimed that it was a mere accident and defended the management of the mine. The investigation reports claimed that there were huge violations of safety in the mining operations, but Wilbur managed to save himself. He eventually sold the ‘International Coal Group’ at a great margin.
In the 1980s, Donald Trump owned three casinos in Atlantic City that were facing the risk of foreclosure. Wilbur prevented that from happening and thus entered the good books of Trump.
After Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential elections, he nominated Wilbur as the secretary of commerce in his cabinet. In February 2017, he was officially sworn into the cabinet with a 72–27 vote in the senate. He thus became a cabinet minister at the age of 79, which made him the oldest first-time United States head of ministry.
Following ‘Brexit,’ Wilbur commented on the U.S. trade deals with the U.K., saying that they were low on the U.S.’s priority list. However, the U.K. had been one of the most crucial partners of the U.S. for years.
He landed himself in a controversy soon after he was sworn into the office. He mentioned his net worth was more than $2.5 billion. However, ‘Forbes’ concluded that it was much less than what he had announced and revised his net worth to $600 million.
He was also criticized for being “out of touch” during his first formal visit as the secretary of commerce. He had accompanied President Trump to Saudi Arabia in May 2017. He announced that the trip was a success, as it saw no protests. However, the reason behind this was the fact that the Saudi government had banned public protests and demonstrations since 2011. Thus, he was hugely mocked and criticized for the goof-up.
In September, 2017, he attempted to bring stability to the U.S. economy by improving trade relations with China. He visited Beijing for the same. Hence, the tariffs on steel and aluminium were increased. Wilbur later stated that it was done to “modify China’s behavior.”
He also pressurized the U.S. to seal trade deals with Kazakhstan. In 2018, he visited the country with some top investors and businessmen from the U.S. He facilitated local Kazakh companies to enter into trade deals with their American counterparts.
In 2018, he was dragged into yet another major controversy when it was announced by ‘Forbes’ that Wilbur still owned stakes in companies that had links with Russia and China. This was clearly a “conflict of interest.” It was also revealed that Wilbur had previously claimed that he had divested all his financial holdings. However, he had put them in a trust for his family members.
‘Politico’ reported that Wilbur was incompetent to head the ‘Department of Commerce’ and that many prominent figures in the ‘White House’ were unhappy with him. He was also seen sleeping during many important conferences and meetings.
Wilbur Ross had offered help during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. His support won him the ‘Order of Industrial Service Merit’ from the South Korean president in 1999.
He has also received the ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ medal.
Wilbur Ross married Judith Nodine in 1961. They divorced in 1995. He then married Betsy McCaughey, but this marriage, too, ended in a divorce. Since 2004, he has been married to businesswoman and author Hilary Geary.
He has two children from his first marriage but none from his second and third marriages.
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