Wilbur Ross is an American businessman who served as the 39th United States secretary of commerce from 2017 to 2021. With nearly six decades of investment banking and private equity experience, Ross has restructured over $400 billion of assets. He's been chairman or lead director of more than 100 companies operating in more than 20 different countries. In fact, Ross is also known as the “King of Bankruptcy” for reviving many failed companies and selling them for profit. After obtaining his Master of Business Administration from Harvard, he began working for investment banking and brokerage firms such as Faulkner, Dawkins, & Sullivan. In 1976, he jumped ship and joined Rothschild & Co., working there for the next 24 years in positions of ever-increasing seniority. Ross is also credited with founding the International Steel Group in the early 2000s, and later selling it at a huge profit. Named by Bloomberg Markets as one of the 50 Most Influential People in Global Finance, Ross has received a plethora of honors during his lifetime. In 2014, the Emperor of Japan bestowed on him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.
Following his early education, Ross enrolled at Yale College, his father's alma mater. At Yale, he initially aspired to become a writer. In addition to his coursework, Ross edited one of the literary magazines and even worked at the radio station. To hone his writing skills, he joined an English course that required writing a thousand words by 10 a.m. every day. After only two weeks, the young man ran out of things to write about. He dropped the course, realizing that he wasn't cut out to be a writer. In 1959, he received his bachelor's degree from Yale, and his faculty adviser helped him get his first job on Wall Street.
Despite it being many, many years since Ross has cracked open a book at Yale University, he still hasn’t forgotten his old alma mater. Known as a hands-on leader, Ross has served on multiple Yale boards, including the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale University Council, and most recently, the Yale School of Management Board of Advisers. His affiliation with the university doesn't end with elbow grease either. In 2016, Ross proved his loyalty again when he pledged $10 million to help build and develop the Yale campus. Ross’s gift, among the largest by an individual in recent times, was directed towards building a state-of-the-art library supporting teaching and research at Yale.
“Wilbur Ross," said Yale SOM Dean Sharon Oster, "is an icon in the world of restructuring and value investing." Ross himself later explained, “When I was an undergraduate at Yale, my father died, and Yale was a beacon that provided financial support. This is a good opportunity to give something back... I have become convinced that the quality of both faculty and students is world class and that they deserve a campus of equal quality."