Stephen Ross is a billionaire real estate developer, the chairman of the Related Companies and the owner of the Miami Dolphins NFL team.
He is currently facing criticism for plans to host a major fundraiser for President Donald Trump in Long Island, New York. According to the Washington Post, Ross and his wife, Kara Ross, are hosting an event at their home in Southampton on Friday, August 9. Tickets that include a photo with the president are reportedly being sold for $100,000. Donors wishing to sit at a private table with the president are invited to buy a ticket for $250,000.
News of the fundraiser prompted a backlash on social media. Ross’ company owns the brands SoulCycle and Equinox, both of which were trending on Twitter as people posted about canceling memberships to the gyms in protest. The companies issued a statement announcing that they do not support the fundraiser and that Ross does not have an active role with either Equinox or SoulCycle.
Ross has responded to the criticism in a prepared statement: “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about. 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. I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is my deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy. I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
Here’s what you need to know about Stephen Ross.
1. Stephen Ross Has Donated to Multiple Republican Candidates For Office Over the Years, as Well as a Few Democrats
Public records available on the Federal Election Commission website show that Stephen Ross has donated substantial sums of money to support many GOP candidates and causes over the years. It would not appear that Donald Trump was his top pick for 2016, however. In January of that year, Ross held a fundraiser for Jeb Bush at his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
Ross’ largest contributions have gone to the Republican National Committee. The FEC records show that Ross donated more than $35,000 to the organization in June of 2019. There is a second donation listed for $14,500 that shows it was received on the same day.
Some of the other GOP candidates Ross has donated to include Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin.
There are Democratic names on the list as well. FEC records show that Stephen M. Ross, whose listed “employer” is the Related Companies, has donated to Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, and Rep. Lois Frankel of Florida in 2019. You can see Ross’ full list of contributions on the FEC website here.
2. Stephen Ross & Donald Trump Have Known Each Other for Several Decades
Stephen Ross and Donald Trump were both New York City-based real estate developers and have known each other for several decades. They also both invested in the United States Football League, the organization that strived to compete with the National Football League, during the 1980s. They both owned teams in the league, which lasted just three seasons.
During 2017, Ross expressed disagreement with President Trump over players kneeling during the national anthem. The president had called on team owners to fire athletes who chose not to stand during the Star-Spangled Banner. Ross put out a statement supporting the athletes, writing in part, “I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community.”
However, Ross later changed his tune and forbid Dolphins players from kneeling during the anthem. You can read more about the relationship between Ross and Trump, and the debate over the national anthem, here.
3. Stephen Ross Has an Estimated Net Worth of $7.7 Billion & His Company Owns $30 Billion Worth of Real Estate
Stephen Ross is described by Forbes as a “self-made” billionaire. His estimated net worth is valued at $7.7 billion, at least half of which he has vowed to give away to charity after signing Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge. Ross is married with four children.
Ross was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1940. He attended the University of Michigan, earning a bachelor’s degree of Business Administration. He also holds law degrees from the Wayne State School of Law and New York University.
Ross’ first two jobs did not lead to success. He first worked at a securities brokerage firm called Laird and was let go. He was fired from his second job at the investment bank Bear Stearns. Ross told CNN in 2018 that getting fired ended up being “the best thing that happened to me.”
Ross said he borrowed $10,000 from his mother and founded the Related Companies in 1972. According to Forbes, the company now owns $30 billion worth of property worldwide.
Related Companies developed the famous Time Warner Center located near Central Park in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle. The company was also behind the famed west side Hudson Yards development, which is expected to be fully completed by 2024.
4. Stephen Ross’ Company Owns SoulCycle & Equinox
Stephen Ross is the chairman of the Related Companies. The company owns the fitness brand Equinox, which is the parent company of SoulCycle.
Both brands faced criticism from members on social media when it became public knowledge that Ross was hosting a fundraiser for President Trump. The brands were trending on Twitter on August 7 as people posted that they were considering canceling their memberships. You can see the online conversations about SoulCycle here and references to Equinox here.
One of the people who criticized Ross’ fundraiser was actor Billy Eichner. (He recently voiced Timon in the Lion King). Eichner wrote, “Hey @Equinox – what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?”
A petition was also launched on Change.org calling on Equinox to “end its support of Donald Trump.” The organizer wrote on the page, “We joined this gym because we believed it shared our values. We believed it was a safe space for people like us. We believed that we were supporting a company that was inclusive, accepting and celebrating our diversity and supporting our physical and mental health as a community… There is NO WAY that we as a community can continue to support this business if you are actively supporting an administration that puts us in danger.”
As referenced above, Equinox and SoulCycle issued a statement clarifying that the fitness companies are not involved with the political fundraiser and that Ross does not have an active role with the companies.
5. Stephen Ross Has Been the Majority Owner of the Miami Dolphins Since 2008
Stephen Ross owns the Miami Dolphins. According to the team’s website, Ross first invested in the team in 2008 and became a managing general partner in 2009.
Ross currently owns 95 percent of the franchise and the Hard Rock Stadium, in a deal that was worth more than $1 billion.
One of the people to vocally criticize Ross’ decision to host a fundraiser for President Trump was Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills. He wrote on Twitter that Ross’ fundraiser doesn’t match the mission of his own non-profit organization. Ross founded a group called “Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality,” which states on its website that the organization is committed to empowering “the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.”