Wilbur Ross, the billionaire investor considered the “king of bankruptcy” for buying beaten-down companies with the potential to deliver profits, is expected to join President-elect Donald Trump’s senior economic team as commerce secretary. The nomination could be announced as early as Wednesday. A senior transition official, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter and requested anonymity, told The Associated Press about it last week.
Reputed by Forbes to be worth nearly $3 billion, Ross would represent the interests of US businesses domestically and abroad as the head at Commerce.
His department would be among those tasked with carrying out the Trump administration’s stated goal of protecting US workers and challenging decades of globalization that largely benefited multinational corporations.
With a Florida home down the road from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago retreat, the 78-year-old Ross played a role in crafting and selling the president-elect’s tax-cut and infrastructure plans.
Ross has suggested that much of America is disgruntled because the economy has left middle-class workers behind and says Trump represents a shift to a “less politically correct direction.”
“Part of the reason why I’m supporting Trump is that I think we need a more radical, new approach to government â€” at least in the US from what we’ve had before,” Ross told CNBC in June, referring to Trump’s blunt tone and sweeping promises to reinvigorate economic growth.
Ross most prominently created four companies through mergers and acquisitions that focused on steel, textiles, autos and coal. In some cases, Ross has sold the companies he packaged to even larger globe-spanning companies. In 2005, he sold the International Steel Group, which included the former Bethlehem Steel, to the Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.
And while his investments appear to have proved generally lucrative, they have also at times brought troubling publicity.
In early 2006, the Sago coal mine owned by Ross exploded, triggering a collapse that killed a dozen miners. Federal safety inspectors in 2005 had cited the West Virginia mine with 208 violations.
Ross said afterward that he knew about the safety violations but that the mine’s management had assured him that it was a “safe situation.”