In a newly released interview, real estate magnate Stephen Ross defends President Donald Trump as a “strong leader” who is “not a crazy conservative.”
The billionaire developer Ross — whose holding company owns workout brands SoulCycle, Equinox, and Blink Fitness — became the target of criticism and calls for boycotts this week after news broke of a fundraiser he is set to host for President Donald Trump.
“Trump is a centrist,” Ross tells Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in June. “He has a different style than most people are used to but he is strong.”
‘Taking on China’
In the interview, Ross voiced support for Trump’s confrontational approach to trade relations with China.
“We need him as a strong leader,” Ross says. “What he’s done with China and taking on China — somebody had to do it, and he was probably the only person that would take them on.”
“That’s important for the future of the United States,” Ross adds.
Controversy erupted across social media after the Washington Post reported on Tuesday of a fundraising luncheon for Trump to be held at Ross’s home. Tickets cost anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000, the Washington Post found.
The backlash among customers has so far centered on the gym chains Equinox, SoulCycle, and Blink Fitness. Television personality and model Chrissy Teigen and actor Billy Eichner are among those who’ve voiced their support for the cancellation of Equinox memberships.
“everyone who cancels their equinox and soul cycle memberships, meet me at the library. bring weights,” Teigen tweeted on Wednesday to her 11.4 million followers.
On Wednesday Ross responded to the criticism in a statement: “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,” Ross said.
In the interview with Serwer, Ross similarly qualified his support for Trump, noting that “in terms of Trump, there’s a good and bad obviously, with anything.”
Ross made the comments to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that airs on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
‘I think that today, people are happy’
SoulCycle distanced itself from Ross in a statement from CEO Melanie Whelan on Wednesday, referring to him as “a passive investor” who “is not involved in the management of SoulCycle.”
As chairman of Related Companies, Ross has built high-profile projects like Hudson Yards, a $25 billion development in Manhattan’s West Side that is the most expensive in U.S. history. He also owns the Miami Dolphins, helping him amass a net worth of $7.7 billion.
As reported by Yahoo Finance’s Dan Roberts, Ross also runs a venture capital firm called RSE Ventures, which invests in companies like the Momofuku restaurant chain, Bluestone Lane coffee, and Gary Vaynerchuk’s VaynerMedia digital branding firm, among others.
In the interview, Ross defended the status quo and criticized the solutions put forward by liberal politicians.
“If you look and you see what the options are on the far left, I think the long term, that is not good for America,” he says. “I think that today, people are happy.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.