Wilbur L. Ross, the billionaire that President-elect Donald Trump named Wednesday as his choice for commerce secretary, runs a private equity firm that is owned by Atlanta money manager Invesco Ltd.
“Wilbur Ross is a champion of American manufacturing and knows how to help companies succeed,” said Trump in a statement announcing his choice as head of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The agency runs a wide variety of business-related services and offices that collect statistics on the nation’s economy, including the Census Bureau, National Weather Service, Patent and Trademark Office and Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Ross, 79, is founder, chairman and chief strategist for New York-based W.L. Ross & Co., which Invesco bought in 2006 in a deal valued at up to $375 million. Forbes estimates his fortune at $2.5 billion.
In a statement, an Invesco spokeswoman congratulated Ross.
“Mr. Ross is highly recognized as a skillful negotiator and visionary investor, able to reinvigorate ailing businesses and entire industries,” said spokeswoman Jeaneen Terrio. “We have been planning for this eventuality for some time and are working to ensure the smoothest possible transition for the business.”
She said Ross will likely relinquish his position at the firm if his appointment is confirmed by the Senate, but that he stepped back from day-to-day control more than two years ago.
In August, W.L. Ross & Co. agreed to pay a $2.3 million civil penalty and to reimburse $11.8 million to investors to settle civil charges by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it hadn’t clearly disclosed its management fees in some of its funds. The company didn’t admit or deny the alleged infractions.
Ross was Trump’s economic advisor and a key fundraiser during his campaign. He was one of a parade of notables who paid visits to Trump before Thanksgiving at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., for apparent job interviews to join his cabinet.
Ross is something of a vulture capitalist who made his name — and his fortune — buying up sinking steelmakers and other distressed firms and re-tooling them by cutting debt and jobs, merging companies and re-selling them.
The strategy, often carried out in the midst of bankruptcy restructurings, earned Ross the nickname “king of bankruptcy” in some circles.