President Elect Donald Trump has selected billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to head the 43,880 employee Commerce Department. Ross, whose 2014 net worth of $2.9 Billion put him on the Forbes billionaires list, is best known for his role in restructuring failing manufacturing and production companies. The nomination of Ross is part of Trump’s strong commitment to keeping the promises he made on the campaign trail to put competent, business-minded, people in power, especially as it relates trade and manufacturing.
Ross, who is 79 years old, earned an MBA from Harvard and ran the bankruptcy-restructuring division of Rothschild, Inc. for over two decades. As an interesting historical note, it was Ross who helped Donald Trump avoid foreclosure of his Atlantic City Casinos in the early 1990s when Trump had found himself in dire financial straits. This goes to show that Trump is a creature of intense loyalty, and has a long memory of people who have helped him in the past.
Trump’s up-front view of Ross’ ability to navigate the complicated waters of bankruptcy is likely one of the driving factors behind the nomination. Trump has long alleged that United States interests are being taken advantage of by foreign competition and that the American government is not doing enough to make American workers competitive. Certainly in bringing someone into his Cabinet with extensive experience in making large companies profitable.
As with any executive tasked with making the difficult decisions related to business profitability, Ross has been criticized for instituting layoffs and downsizing when he has been brought in to save companies. However, it should be noted that, in saving companies, Ross’ net effect was to save jobs and business.
Ross, who has been a vocal critic of free trade, like Mr. Trump, would take over a Commerce Department that, during the last Administration, has focused on a globalist mindset. The outgoing Commerce Secretary, Penny Pritzker, was an outspoken advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal as well as spreading clean energy partnerships. Trump has pledged to scrap the TPP. Ross, who has likened free trade to a free lunch (hint: there’s no free lunch), sees international commerce as a competition: there are winners and losers, and, if you don’t believe it, you’re probably losing. Certainly Ross represents the mindset of Mr. Trump and will bring significant business acumen to bear in his new role.
Mr. Ross is the exact type of candidate for the exact type of job that Donald Trump pledged to nominate if he were elected President: someone with a proven track record of restoring businesses to profitability and driving successful negotiation. While Mr. Ross has not held elected office, his business positions and connections have intimately connected him to some of the most powerful people in politics and business.