The billionaire owner of Equinox and SoulCycle defended his decision to host a high-cost fundraiser for President Donald Trump.
Stephen Ross, chairman of Related Companies, suggested in a lengthy statement that he can more effectively influence political leaders by raising millions of dollars for them.
“I have always been an active participant in the democratic process,” Ross said in a statement. “While some prefer to sit outside of the process and criticize, I prefer to engage directly and support the things I deeply care about.”
“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.”
The statement from Ross comes as countless individuals in the LGBTQ community called for a boycott of Equinox and SoulCycle, both companies under the Related Companies corporate umbrella.
“Hey @Equinox — what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?” wrote out comedian Billy Eichner.
Leadership at Equinox and SoulCycle distanced themselves from Ross’s politics in a statement issued Wednesday. "Neither Equinox nor SoulCycle have anything to do with the event later this week and do not support it,” reads a statement from the companies.
Melanie Whelan, CEO of SoulCycle, issued a personal, more emphatic statement later as well.
“At SoulCycle, we wake up every day committed to our community, and creating a safe space where all are welcome,” Whelan’s statement reads. “We believe in diversity, inclusion and equality."
She went on to say that she doesn't endorse the Trump fundraiser and says her company has nothing to do with it.
Her statement reiterated that Ross is a "passive investor," but that framing only created more anger in many Equinox and SoulCycle members who pointed out that passive or not, Ross still makes a profit through his stake in the brands.
The event referenced would be the upcoming lavish fundraiser in the Hamptons that will charge up to $250,000 for attendees who want to hear a private roundtable discussion with Trump administration officials and members of Trump’s family.
Ross’s own statement defended his own choice to support Republican leaders, even in the face of accusations Trump has advanced discriminatory policies that hurt the LGBTQ community.
“I started my business with nothing and a reason for my engagement with our leaders is a deep concern for creating jobs and growing our countries economy,” Ross’s statement said.
“I have been, and will continue to be, an outspoken champion of racial equality, inclusion, diversity, public education and environmental sustainability, and I have and will continue to support leaders on both sides of the aisle to address these challenges.”
Transparency website Open Secrets reports 93 percent of Ross’s political donations in the last campaign cycle went to Republicans.