Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. (November 28, 1937) is an American investor known for restructuring failed companies in industries such as steel, coal, telecommunications, foreign investment and textiles. He specializes in leveraged buyouts and distressed businesses. As of August 2014, Forbes magazine lists Ross as one of the world's billionaires with a net worth of $2.9 billion.
Ross was born in Weehawken, New Jersey and grew up well off in suburban New Jersey. His father was a lawyer and his mother a school teacher. He serves on the board of advisors of Yale School of Management. His second wife was former New York Lt. Governor Betsy McCaughey Ross, whom he divorced in 2000. He drove two hours a day from New Jersey to attend the elite Catholic college preparatory Xavier High School in Manhattan. He ran track and was captain of the rifle team. He earned a B.A. from Yale College, which was also his father's alma mater. At Yale, Ross edited one of the literary magazines and worked at the radio station. Initially, he wanted to be a writer, but after his experience in a fiction class requiring 500 words daily, he concluded that he had "run out of material." His faculty adviser at Yale helped him get his first summer job on Wall Street. He earned his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School.
Ross’ entire art collection is conservatively valued at $150 million and includes pieces ranging from Western surrealists to contemporary Eastern sculptures. Ross owns 25 Magrittes including some of the artist's most valuable paintings such as The Pilgrim.
"Starting in the mid-'70s, Ross built his reputation as a bankruptcy adviser. Ross saw himself as cleaning up the messy results of Michael Milken's junk-bond financings, but by 1997 he wanted to do more than just cajole others into doing it his way. For three years he ran a private-equity fund within Rothschild. But Ross couldn't invest in deals on which the firm was advising, shutting him out of one in three bankruptcies."
WL Ross & Co.
In 2000, Ross bought out his equity fund and opened WL Ross & Co. in New York with $440 million in investor money and a staff that included four top managers who, along with Ross, make up the firm's investment committee: David H. Storper, who runs trading; David L. Wax, a longtime workout specialist; Stephen J. Toy, an Asia expert; and Pamela K. Wilson, a J.P. Morgan & Co. veteran. WL Ross & Co. was acquired by Amvescap (now Invesco) in 2006.
International Steel Group
Wilbur Ross at first had support of the local Steelworkers Union, negotiating a deal with them to "save" Pennsylvania's steel industry.
International Textile Group (ITG)
Ross combined Burlington Industries and Cone Mills in 2004 to form International Textile Group. ITG operates five businesses, all of which operate under separate brand names: Cone Denim, Burlington Apparel Fabrics, Home Furnishings, Carlisle Finishing and Nano-Tex. The company entered into a five-year, $150 million credit facility led by Bank of America. Other lenders in the bank group included GE Capital and CIT Group. Corporate offices are located in Greensboro in the previous Cone Mills headquarters building and in an adjacent office complex.
International Automotive Components Group (IAC)
Wilbur L. Ross, Chairman of International Automotive Components Group ("IAC"), announced on Oct 16, 2006 the completion of the previously announced acquisition of Lear Corporation's European Interiors Systems Division on a debt-free basis in exchange for 34% of the stock in IAC. The transaction will expand IAC's presence in Europe to 20 facilities in 9 countries with approximately $1.2 billion in annual revenues. In early 2007, Lear completed the transfer of substantially all of its former North American Interior Systems Division to International Automotive Components Group North America. The deal involved 26 manufacturing plants and two Chinese joint ventures. Lear also contributed $27 million in cash for a 25% interest in IAC North America and warrants for an additional 7%.
Collins & Aikman Europe
On November 28, 2005 the joint venture by Ross, Franklin Mutual Advisers, and Lear Corporation, announced an agreement to acquire from Collins & Aikman Europe ("C&A") its $600 million operations in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom serving Ford, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Saab, Volkswagen, Volvo and other original equipment manufacturers. The exchange is subject to approval of the local insolvency authority and the Austrian Court.
Wilbur L. Ross, Chairman of IAC said, "We are delighted to make IAC's first acquisition within a month of announcing the joint venture company. We also are appreciative that the automobile industry has decided to support our efforts. This is the start of a major global factor in the automotive interior plastics industry." The Joint Venture has also bought the subsidiary of C&A in Brazil.
Safety Components International
On December 2, 2005, Zapata Corp. Chairman, Avie Glazer, announced the sale of 4,162,394 shares, 77.3%, of Safety Components International to Ross for $51.2 million. Safety Components, an independent manufacturer of air bag fabrics and cushions, is headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, USA and has plants in North America, Europe, China and South Africa.
Ross owns 25% of Oxford Automotive, a French company, which is in talks to be taken over by Wagon.
International Coal Group
Ross founded the International Coal Group, which has now gone public. The UMWA has protested the bankruptcy regulations that had allowed him to set up the International Coal Group free of labor unions, health care and pensions.
Sago Mine disaster
Following the Sago Mine disaster, the New York Post's Roddy Boyd reported that Ross "had been intimately involved with the company that owned the West Virginia mine where 12 miners perished — and he knew all about its safety problems, former executives charged." The article also reported that the mine had 12 roof collapses in 2005, and that the U.S. Department of Labor data showed 208 citations for safety violations in that same period, including 21 times for build-up of toxic gasses. Despite these figures, Ross refused to shut down the mine. The Department of Labor and the State of West Virginia, as well as Congress are currently investigating the disaster.
Ross served under U.S. President Bill Clinton on the board of the U.S.-Russia Investment Fund, and later, under New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as the Mayor's privatization advisor. In January 1998 he put $2.25 million in seed money into McCaughey Ross's campaign.