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Trump picks 'king of bankruptcy' Ross for Commerce

President-elect Donald Trump and investor Wilbur Ross pose for a photo following their meeting at Trump International Golf Club, November 20, 2016 in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.
Drew Angerer/AFP
Wilbur Ross is a billionaire known for taking over ailing steel and coal companies and selling them for profit

US President-elect Donald Trump has chosen an investor to head the Commerce Department with such a history of investing in dying industries that he was known as the "king of bankruptcy."

Wilbur Ross, a billionaire known for taking over ailing steel and coal companies and selling them for profit, will help handle trade disputes with countries like China, including complaints about the dumping of cheap metals into the US market.

"I didn't think I would ever have a boss again," Ross told CNBC television early Wednesday in an interview, just before his appointment was formally announced.

Ross, whose fortune is estimated at $2.9 billion, agrees with Trump about the need for Washington to exit bad trade agreements and has advocated steep tariffs on Chinese imports. 

He appeared on CNBC with Trump's pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who said the two will work together to lower and simplify taxes to create jobs and boost growth.

Ross also said they would work to improve existing trade deals, and called the Obama administration's now languishing Trans-Pacific Partnership a "horrible deal."

"There's trade, sensible trade, and dumb trade. We've been doing a lot of dumb trade. That's the part that's going to get fixed," Ross told CNBC.

Among Ross's signature investments was the purchase of Pennsylvania's iconic but now-defunct Bethlehem Steel, a deal which was hailed by unions for saving manufacturing jobs.

He also bought Burlington Industries, the centerpiece of North Carolina's once-thriving textile industry.

Since then, however, many steel mills have shut down amid a glut of foreign production, much of it in China, and US textiles have been gutted faced with competition from mills in Latin American and Asia, where labor is cheap.

Ross is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard Business School, and chairman of private equity firm WL Ross & Company. He also owns a waterfront estate in Palm Beach, Florida, down the road from Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf club and resort.

As with all of the president-elect's cabinet nominations, Ross's appointment will be subject to Senate confirmation.


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