After plans for a Trump fundraiser hosted by billionaire Stephen Ross came to light, two of his company’s subsidiaries — the fitness brands SoulCycle and Equinox — became the subject of a swift backlash. The hashtags #cancelsoulcycle and #boycottequinox began trending, and celebrities including Chrissy Teigen and Billy Eichner posted that they would no longer be customers of the brands.
But Ross’s companies are affiliated with many popular food and restaurant brands, too — and the food world, including some of Ross’s own brands, have chimed in, urging him to cancel the fundraiser. Brands associated with his company are trying to distance themselves from the magnate.
Ross is the New York real estate developer behind Hudson Yards, the mega-development that includes restaurants, a shopping center, arts facility, hotel, housing and the Vessel, a public sculpture and tourist attraction. He is the chairman and founder of Related Companies and chairman and co-founder of RSE Ventures, an investment company that lists among its investments Bluestone Lane Coffee; Chef David Chang’s Momofuku; &pizza, the fast-casual pizza chain founded in the District; Outstanding Foods, a plant-based-food company; Banza, a maker of legume-based pastas; online reservations service Resy; and June, a company that makes smart ovens. Tenants in Hudson Yards include Chang’s restaurants Fuku, Kawi and Peach Mart, as well as chef José Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain, chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and TAK Room, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Yesterday evening, Andrés — who became a vocal opponent of President Trump after plans for an Andrés restaurant in Trump’s D.C. hotel ended in both parties suing each other — urged his landlord to cancel the fundraiser.
“I was a bit surprised by this report of Steve Ross, for this fundraising to support Trump,” Andrés said. “I’m asking, hopefully, Steve Ross to reconsider his fundraising, and do the right thing.”
David Chang addressed Ross on a special episode of his podcast, the Dave Chang Show. In a six-minute, expletive-laden message to listeners, Chang described his anger upon learning about Ross’s fundraiser.
“I personally am a staunch opponent to President Trump and everything he stands for,” Chang said. “He is destroying our democratic norms. I cannot stand behind him. This is a complicated situation for me, personally, and I know it raises a lot of questions for the people who dine at our restaurants and have supported us over the years.”
Chang said that Ross was “the only potential investor who believed in the potential of what Momofuku could be.” He spoke to Ross directly: “Steve, if you’re listening — and I know that you listen to this podcast sometimes — I respect and admire you as a businessman. You have been a champion of all the values of Momofuku … but I’m imploring you to reconsider hosting this fundraiser.”
The bakery Milk Bar, another Ross-funded hospitality enterprise, issued a statement from Christina Tosi, its founder:
“Milk Bar is in no way affiliated with the Trump fundraiser. Stephen Ross is one of many investors in our company, all of whom come from different perspectives. Regardless of investors, our strategy, mission, and company decisions are all made independently by the Milk Bar team and me,” wrote Tosi, in part. “At Milk Bar we believe unequivocally in equal rights for all. We are anti-discrimination, we welcome and celebrate people from all races, sexualities, identities, nationalities, citizenship statuses, religion and beliefs. I do not personally support the policies of the current administration. However, I also don’t mandate what people who work at my company believe politically.”
Ross issued a statement to The Washington Post saying he is “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.”
A representative for Resy told The Post that RSE is no longer an investor in the company, which was purchased by American Express earlier this year. A representative for &pizza declined to comment. A representative for June issued a statement: “RSE Ventures is an investor in June, but June has no association with the fundraiser on Friday, and has not received any consumer inquires.”
The Post has reached out to other RSE Ventures food companies and will update this report.
Michelle Ye Hee Lee contributed to this report.
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