Here’s a look at the life of former Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross Jr.
Birth date: November 28, 1937
Birth place: Weehawken, New Jersey
Birth name: Wilbur Louis Ross Jr.
Father: Wilbur Louis Ross Sr., a lawyer
Mother: Agnes (O’Neill) Ross, a teacher
Marriages: Hilary (Geary) Ross (October 9, 2004); Betsy (McCaughey) Ross (December 7, 1995-August 2000, divorced); Judith (Nodine) Ross (May 26, 1961-October 1995, divorced)
Children: with Judith Nodine: Jessica and Amanda
Education: Yale University, A.B., 1959, Harvard University, M.B.A., 1961
He was called the “King of Bankruptcy,” as he built new companies from the assets of defaulted ones.
Ross was known for investing in distressed companies in a wide range of industries including auto parts, steel, textiles and financial services.
1976-2000 – Works for the investment bank Rothschild Inc. During his tenure, he becomes a top bankruptcy adviser.
January 1998 – Pledges $2.25 million towards then-wife and Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross’ campaign for governor of New York. He withdraws the funding in September and files for divorce in November.
2000 – Purchases a small fund he started at Rothschild and opens his own private equity firm, WL Ross & Co. LLC.
2002 – Establishes the International Steel Group (ISG), with himself as chairman of the board, through a series of mergers and acquisitions starting with Bethlehem Steel Corp.
December 2003 – ISG goes public.
2004 – Forms the International Coal Group (ICG) after purchasing the assets of Horizon Natural Resources in a bankruptcy auction.
October 2004 – Merges ISG with Mittal Steel for $4.5 billion.
January 2, 2006 – Twelve miners are killed after an explosion at a West Virginia mine operated by an ICG subsidiary. Families of the dead and Randal McCloy, the lone survivor, sue ICG and WL Ross claiming negligence. All of the lawsuits are settled by November 2011.
April 2010 – Purchases a 21% stake in Richard Branson’s Virgin Money. In November 2011, Ross helps Branson fund a successful bid for the British bank Northern Rock.
August 2, 2010 – During an interview with Charlie Rose, Ross states that he’s fine with higher taxes on the wealthy as long as the government puts the money to good use.
June 2011 – Arch Coal, Inc. acquires ICG for $3.4 billion.
September 2011 – WL Ross is one of five US and Canadian companies that purchase a 34.9% stake in the Bank of Ireland. Ross’ share is reportedly 9.3%.
March 21, 2016 – Nexeo Solutions, a chemical distribution company, announces their merger agreement with WL Ross Holding Corporation. The merger is valued at nearly $1.6 billion.
August 24, 2016 – The Securities and Exchange Commission announces that WL Ross will pay a $2.3 million fine for failing to properly disclose fees it charged.
November 30, 2016 – Ross announces in a CNBC interview that President-elect Donald Trump has asked him to serve as his commerce secretary.
February 27, 2017 – The Senate confirms Ross as commerce secretary by a 72-27 vote. He is sworn in the next day.
November 5, 2017 – The New York Times reports that Ross has financial ties to a shipping company whose clients include a Russian energy company co-owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law. Another customer of the shipping company is Venezuela’s state-run oil company, which has been sanctioned by the US government. The information comes from the Paradise Papers, a release of 13.4 million leaked documents.
November 7, 2017 – Two days after the Paradise Papers are released, Forbes reports that Ross inflated his net worth to be included in the magazine’s annual list of the world’s wealthiest individuals. His name is removed from the magazine’s website. An investigation by the magazine reveals that Ross has likely been providing inaccurate financial information since 2004. Ross claims that the magazine overlooked trusts for his family while tallying his fortune.
March 2, 2018 – During an appearance on CNBC, Ross says the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum tariffs won’t hurt consumers. He holds up a can of Campbell’s soup as he explains that the price of soup will go up less than a penny due to the tariffs.
March 26, 2018 – Ross announces that a citizenship question will be added to the 2020 census.
July 12, 2018 – Ross admits to “errors” in failing to divest assets required by his government ethics agreement and says he will sell all his stock holdings. The admission comes after the Office of Government Ethics took Ross to task for what it said were inconsistencies in his financial disclosure forms.
September 21, 2018 – A federal judge rules that Ross must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit regarding his department’s decision to include a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. The US Supreme Court later blocks the deposition.
December 19, 2018 – The Center for Public Integrity reports that Ross failed to sell a bank stock holding within the required time frame after his 2017 confirmation and subsequently signed ethics documents indicating the holding had been sold.
February 15, 2019 – Ross’ financial disclosure form is rejected by the Office of Government Ethics. Ross later releases a statement saying, “While I am disappointed that my report was not certified, I remain committed to complying with my ethics agreement and adhering to the guidance of Commerce ethics officials.”
June 27, 2019 – The Supreme Court issues a 5-4 ruling that blocks the citizenship question from being added to the census.
July 17, 2019 – The House votes to hold Ross in criminal contempt over a dispute related to the citizenship question on the census. Attorney General William Barr is also held in contempt. Ross releases a statement in which he dismisses the vote as a political stunt. “House Democrats never sought to have a productive relationship with the Trump Administration, and today’s PR stunt further demonstrates their unending quest to generate headlines instead of operating in good faith with our Department.”
July 18, 2020 – A department spokesman says that Ross has been hospitalized for “minor, non-coronavirus related issues.” On July 27, the Commerce Department says Ross has been released from the hospital.
September 28, 2020 – Ross announces that he intends to conclude the 2020 census on October 5. This is more than three weeks earlier than expected and against the October 31 court reinstated end date. Ross asks Census Bureau officials if the earlier date would effectively allow them to produce a final set of numbers during Trump’s current term in office, according to an internal email released the following day as part of a lawsuit.
October 13, 2020 – The Supreme Court grants a request from the Trump administration to halt the census count while an appeal plays out over a lower court’s order that it continue. The Census Bureau announces that the count is ending on October 15.
July 19, 2021 – According to a letter made public from Commerce Department Inspector General Peggy Gustafson to Democratic lawmakers, the Justice Department decides to decline prosecution of Ross for misrepresentations he made to Congress about the origins of the Trump administration’s failed push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.