Stephen Ross ignited a political wildfire when he hosted a ritzy Hamptons fundraiser for President Donald Trump last month that raked in millions. And the Related Companies chair is still feeling the heat — even at his Hudson Yards megadevelopment.
Critics of the Trump administration, outraged over the president’s rhetoric on immigration, quickly denounced Ross and two of his company’s most visible brands: Equinox and SoulCycle. That backlash came swiftly for the 79-year-old real estate billionaire. With members threatening to boycott both gyms, the heads of those companies (and others backed by Ross) have sought to distance themselves from the Related boss and Miami Dolphins owner.
“We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values,” the CEOs of Equinox and SoulCycle wrote in a public joint statement in August. “Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of either business.”
In his own statement, Ross said his reason for engaging in politics was rooted in a “deep concern for creating jobs.” And he described himself as an “outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability.”
But as the Aug. 9 event attracted the likes of Trump buddies Richard LeFrak, Steve Witkoff and Steve Roth, among others inside and outside of real estate, the backlash spread to other brands, people and projects backed by Ross and Related.
The national development firm owns a diverse portfolio that includes fund management and specialty businesses ranging from high-end gyms to curtain wall manufacturing. Ross has also backed dozens of companies including Momofuku and Milk Bar through RSE Ventures, a private venture capital firm he co-founded in 2012. And through Vayner/RSE, a partnership with Gary Vaynerchuk, the developer has invested in a multitude of other brands.
Here is a rundown of Ross and Related’s business interests.
The total value of assets that Related owns or has under development, including the $25 billion, 28-acre Hudson Yards on Manhattan’s Far West Side. The company is also working on a proposed $7 billion, 62-acre megaproject along the Chicago River known as The 78.
Through RSE, Ross has backed a network of startups focused on hospitality, entertainment and sports. He bet $19.5 million on &pizza, a chain started in Washington, D.C., and made a $20 million investment in the Australian coffee chain Bluestone Lane to help it expand.
Ross’ net worth as of August 2019, according to Forbes. The Related boss owns several apartments within his company’s new developments, including penthouses at the Time Warner Center and 35 Hudson Yards and a fifth-floor condo at 70 Vestry in Tribeca.
The amount Ross paid for his Time Warner Center penthouse, which he took as a “distribution” from Related’s partners on the glitzy mixed-use development in 2006. Ross listed the penthouse for $75 million in July — making it one of the most expensive properties for sale in the city.
The year Ross founded Related with a $10,000 loan from his mother and a focus on affordable housing in New York City. Related has since grown to employ more than 3,000 people, including its CEO, Jeff Blau, with offices around the world.
What it cost to attend the Trump fundraiser hosted at Ross’ Sandcastle estate in the Hamptons. A private meeting with the president cost $250,000, according to the Guardian. Ross’ fundraiser, and a second hosted the same weekend by developer Joe Farrell, reportedly raised about $13 million.
The Detroit native is among the biggest donors to the University of Michigan, where he received an accounting degree in 1962. In 2004, Ross donated $100 million to the university’s business school, now named the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
The amount of time Ross and Trump have known each other, according to a statement in which Ross tried to defuse the PR nightmare. “While we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions,” he said.