President-elect Donald Trump tapped Wilbur Ross, an investor and longtime Trump associate, to serve as secretary of the Department of Commerce, the transition team announced Wednesday.
“Wilbur Ross is a champion of American manufacturing and knows how to help companies succeed. Most importantly, he is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met, and that comes from me, the author of ‘The Art of the Deal,’” Trump said in a statement. “Together, we will take on the special interests and stand up for American jobs.”
Ross, 79, is a billionaire investor most known for rescuing failed companies—a reputation that earned him the nickname “the king of bankruptcies,” according to Politico.
He’ll take over the Commerce Department as the new administration gears up for implementation of Trump’s “America First” economic plan, which involves creating more than 25 million jobs in the next 10 years.
A native of New Jersey and a former Democrat, Ross spent 25 years at the head of Rothschild Inc.’s bankruptcy practice, according to Forbes. He then launched WL Ross & Co., an investment firm, in 2000 and currently serves as its chairman.
Ross is worth an estimated $2.9 billion, according to Forbes.
“I am delighted to have been selected to join President-elect Trump’s Cabinet and look forward to working especially closely with [newly appointed Treasury Secretary] Steve Mnuchin to implement the economic programs which we have developed jointly to implement the president-elect’s strategy for accelerating our economic growth,” Ross said in a statement.
The 78-year-old billionaire has resurrected companies in the steel, coal, and textiles industries. Ross also helped Trump salvage his Trump Taj Mahal casino in 1990, when the casino was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Ross and investor Carl Icahn decided to restructure the bankruptcy filing in 1991, according to The New York Times, which allowed Trump to save his brand.
Ross is most known for his decision to buy struggling steelmakers including LTV and Bethlehem Steel, which he turned into a new company called International Steel Group. In 2004, Mittal Steel purchased International Steel Group for $4.5 billion.
Despite Ross’ success in that deal, the billionaire’s foray into the steel industry took a drastic turn in 2006 when an explosion at the Sago Mine in West Virginia killed 12 miners. A company Ross owned, International Steel Group, took over the mine months earlier.
Ross served as an economic adviser to Trump during the campaign and shares Trump’s views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, calling it the “worst trade deal yet for American manufacturing” in an August op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
If confirmed by the Senate to lead the Commerce Department, Ross will succeed Penny Pritzker. President Barack Obama selected Pritzker for the post in 2013.
As secretary, Ross would serve as a liaison between the White House and the business community. The Commerce Department oversees the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the International Trade Administration, the National Weather Service, and the Census Bureau.
Ross graduated from Yale University and Harvard University, and lives with his third wife in Palm Beach, Florida, not far from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
His second wife is Betsy McCaughey, who served as New York’s lieutenant governor from 1995 to 1998. McCaughey also served on Trump’s economic team during the campaign.