The selection of billionaire private equity investor Wilbur Ross to lead the U.S. Department of Commerce by President-elect Donald Trump marks the third consecutive commerce secretary to have ties to the private equity industry, and experts say the role is a natural fit for those with a private equity past.
Ross, founder of private equity firm WL Ross & Co., will replace incumbent Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who has founded or co-founded a handful of private investment or investment management businesses in her career, including PSP Capital Partners and Artemis Real Estate Partners. Prior to her tenure as commerce secretary, the position was held by John Bryson, who formerly was director and trustee for three Legg Mason asset management funds.
There are many similarities in a commerce secretary’s tasks and the role of a private equity executive, explained Howard Berkower, a partner in the corporate practice of McCarter & English LLP.
“It is sort of similar to what the playbook is for PE,” he said. “You’re seeking to create growth and increase profitability of the GDP in the country.”