Harvey Spevak, the company’s executive chairman, sent a lengthy open letter Thursday morning apologizing for the “impact it has had on our community.” He called the past week a “difficult time” and addressed Ross’ role in the company. Equinox told CNN Business the letter went to all of its members.
“Mr. Ross is not the majority investor in Equinox,” wrote Spevak, who joined the company in 1999. “He is one of the investors including myself. He does not run the company. I do.”
Ross is the majority owner of Related Companies, a massive real estate development company. Related bought Equinox in 2005 when the gym was valued at $505 million. Equinox also owns the budget gym chain Blink Fitness and cycling studio SoulCycle.
Ross garnered widespread attention earlier this month when he hosted a fundraiser for Trump at his house in the Hamptons in New York and charged participants $100,000 to have their picture taken with the president.
“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,” Ross said in a statement last week.
That wasn’t enough to quell outrage from Equinox members, with some canceling their membership. Even though Ross doesn’t run Equinox, but he does receive money from his investment and is donating it to Trump, which sparked criticism from high-profile celebrities like Billy Eichner.
Related Companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Spevak said in his letter that the company has been talking with gym members and employees about the issue.
“It’s been heartfelt and, in many instances, emotional. I’m proud that even during this difficult time our community is one that listens and respects each other,” he wrote.
The Equinox community is a “culture based on equality, diversity, inclusivity, integrity, empathy and mutual respect. A community where everyone is welcome,” Spevak said.
Equinox will donate $1 million to five charities as way to give back to the “communities that have given us so much,” Spevak added. The organizations include the Heroes Project, which aids injured veterans, the Felix Organization, a charity that raises money for kids in foster care, and House Lives Matter, an organization that supports the LGBTQ and gender non-conforming communities.
Last week, SoulCycle CEO Melanie Whelan also sent a letter customers. She said she was “hurt” by Ross’ decision and also said last week was “difficult.”