Stephen Ross is one of the most successful real estate developers America has ever known. But he kept a relatively low profile until reports emerged that would host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump
The Hamptons fundraiser, which will charge participants $100,000 to have their picture taken with the president and $250,000 to listen to a roundtable discussion, was first reported by the Washington Post. It sparked outrage and calls for boycotts from some customers of Ross’ upscale health club, Equinox, as well as some of his other businesses, such as SoulCycle and Blink Fitness.
But those businesses are only a very small part of the multi-billion dollar empire that Ross has built up over the years. Ross’ company’s deal to buy Equinox in 2005 was valued at $505 million. By comparison, his main company, the privately-held Related Companies, claims to have $50 billion worth of development and acquisition activity. Ross, 78, has a net worth of $7.7 billion, according to a Forbes estimate.
Much of The Related Companies’ holdings are in its home city of New York, where its Hudson Yards development is under construction on 28 acres on the West Side of Manhattan. Described as the largest and most expensive real estate development in the nation, worth nearly $1 billion per acre, it is home to many high-profile tenants, including Warner Media, which owns CNN.
Despite his business success, Ross is not a household name.
Ross went into real estate after twice being fired by Wall Street firms and deciding he wanted to work for himself.
Unlike Trump, his name is not on his buildings and developments. He’s rarely in the tabloids or other news reports. Ross’ name is unknown by many of the people who live or work in his buildings.
Much of the attention he gets is as owner of the Miami Dolphins football team. But he doesn’t have the notoriety of many other owners.
Although Ross is hosting the fundraiser for Trump, he has tried to distance himself from the president. Asked about Trump earlier this year, he told New York Magazine, “I don’t like Donald, okay? We can stop there. We’d be here all day.”
When the controversy about the fundraiser broke out, he issued a statement defending his actions.
“I have always been an active participant in the democratic process. … I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.”
A spokesperson for Equinox and SoulCycle said neither company has anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it.
“As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians,” said Samantha Bonizzi, the spokesperson.
But Equinox is almost exclusively found in major cities. Its locations are in strongly liberal enclaves, such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Boston and Chicago among other cities.