Stephen M. Ross, prominent ‘U’ donor, faces backlash for Trump reelection fundraiser

Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 11:17pm

Stephen M. Ross is facing backlash after hosting a Trump reelection fundraiser

Stephen M. Ross is facing backlash after hosting a Trump reelection fundraiser Buy this photo
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This article has been updated to include an email from the Ross School of Business dean.

University of Michigan alumni Stephen M. Ross — the current largest donor to the University and the namesake of the Ross School of Business — is facing public backlash after being scheduled to host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump.

The fundraiser is currently scheduled to take place at Ross’s home in Southampton on Friday, according to the Washington Post. Tickets to attend the luncheon cost $100,000 for a photo opportunity with Trump and lunch and $250,000 to also attend a roundtable discussion.

Money raised from the event will go to Trump Victory, a fundraising committee for the Trump 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee.

Ross, who also owns Equinox, SoulCycle and the Miami Dolphins, began receiving criticism for hosting the re-election fundraiser. His name began trending on Twitter on Wednesday along with Equinox, #Boycottsoulcycle and #BoycottEquinox. 

Among those speaking out against Ross’s event include Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who said the fundraiser would counter the mission of RISE, the nonprofit Ross founded that aims to strengthen racial relations and eliminate racial discrimination through the sports community.

In response to the backlash, Equinox released a statement via Twitter addressing concerns about the fundraiser.

“We want to let you know that Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it,” the statement read. “As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians. In fact, we are committed to all our members and the communities we live in.”

SoulCycle also released a similar Twitter statement signed by CEO Melanie Whelan saying the company does not endorse the political fundraiser.

“Mr. Ross is a passive investor and is not involved in the management of SoulCycle,” the statement read. “We’ll always stay true to our values and committed to our community. We know who we are and we know what we believe in, and nothing will ever change that.”

Ross recently made headlines in May when he and business partners were accused of overstating the value of property donated to the University in a charitable tax deduction by the Internal Revenue Service.

In an email to students obtained by The Daily from Scott DeRue, dean of the Ross School of Business, he wrote the school rejects all attempts to divide its community and that hate has no place in society. The email was titled “Reinforcing Our Community Values.”

“Many members of our community have shared their concerns related to a political fundraiser that will be hosted by Stephen M. Ross later this week in New York,” DeRue wrote. “I want to thank you for expressing your concerns. We are a community where people of all backgrounds and perspectives are both welcome and encouraged to share their views. We do not endorse or support this or any other fundraising event for political candidates.”

This is a developing story. Check back on michigandaily.com for updates.