Stephen Ross is the chairman and founder of Related Companies, through which he owns Equinox and SoulCycle, and he is also the owner of the Miami Dolphins

By Rachel DeSantis
August 07, 2019 05:10 PM
Stephen Ross (left) and President Donald Trump
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock; Karwai Tang/WireImage

Stephen Ross, the billionaire chairman of the parent company behind Equinox and SoulCycle, is set to host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump this week, prompting calls from Billy Eichner, Chrissy Teigen and others to boycott both publicly more liberal brands.

Ross, chairman and founder of Related Companies and the owner of the Miami Dolphins, will host the president and guests on Friday at his home in Southampton, New York, with tickets going for up to $250,000, according to the Washington Post.

Those who want a photo with Trump and lunch can pay $100,000, while those looking to hear a private roundtable discussion with the president can buy a $250,000 ticket.

On Wednesday, amid mounting criticism from celebrities and other customers, both Equinox and SoulCycle said they were not involved in or endorsing Ross’ fundraiser for the president.

Ross said in a statement of his own that he and Trump had known each other for years and though they had their disagreements, Ross’ political priorities were about growing the economy.

His Friday fundraising luncheon will reportedly be followed by a reception at a Hamptons mansion known as the “Sandcastle,” owned by a New York developer, where tickets will sell for between $5,6000 and $35,000 per couple.

Money raised at Friday’s events will benefit the Trump Victory Committee, a fundraising committee for both Trump’s 2020 campaign and the Republican National Committee that has so far raised $67 million, according to the Post.

The RNC confirmed the fundraiser to the paper but declined to share more information, citing security concerns. Officials there did not respond to a question from PEOPLE. A spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign also did not respond to a request for comment.

Various members of Trump’s inner circle will be in attendance on Friday, including Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to the Post.

From left: Chrissy Teigen and Donald Trump
Jeff Vespa/WireImage; Alex Wong/Getty

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As a businessman whose companies and nonprofits have championed causes such as gay and transgender rights, the arts and fighting racial discrimination, Ross’ involvement in the fundraiser has drawn criticism from those who say it’s hypocritical.

Equinox, for example, has prided itself on being an LGBTQ ally, launching the Powered By Pride campaign and partnering with the organization House Lives Matter. According to its website, Equinox has as of June raised $20,000 for the charity, which benefits sexual and gender minority people of color.

SoulCycle, meanwhile, lists “the arts” among causes it has supported on its philanthropy page. The Post reported in March that, for the third year in a row, the Trump administration’s proposed federal budget would eliminate federal funding for the arts and humanities, public television and radio, libraries and museums.

Ross’ decision to host a Trump fundraiser was called out by Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who shared the mission statement for Ross’ sports nonprofit RISE.

The statement read, “We are a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations.”

“You can’t have a non profit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Stills wrote.

Eichner meanwhile responded directly to Equinox, writing on Twitter, “Hey @Equinox – what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?”

“Money talks, especially with these monsters,” Eichner wrote. “If it’s too inconvenient for u to trade one LUXURY GYM for another, then you should be ashamed. (No disrespect to the many wonderful employees at my local Equinox). Bye!”

Teigen joined the boycott call, wryly tweeting, “everyone who cancels their equinox and soul cycle memberships, meet me at the library. bring weights.”

“The gym is my personal hell but if you’re a member of Equinox perhaps it is time to say peace(out)-inox ayyyyy I’m still sick yes but f— equinox,” she wrote in another tweet. In a third, she wrote, “oh and f— soulcycle but I thought that way before this anyhow.”

Those acting in a similar vein launched the trending hashtag “Boycott Equinox” on Twitter Wednesday.

“Hey @Equinox, your “pride month” activities mean nothing if my money is going to support this White House occupant.
I’ll be reconsidering my membership. #boycottequinox,” one user wrote.

Bravo host Andy Cohen spoke out Wednesday as well, telling his Instagram followers that while it’s “everybody’s right to give money to whatever candidate they want,” he was personally wrestling with whether to continue being an Equinox customer (and in fact said he had already been also going to another New York City gym).

“I just want my gay lesbian and brothers and sisters who I know spend a lot of money at Equinox and SoulCycle to know that this is happening,” he said.

“I hate the cancel culture and the boycott culture, and so this is more in the vein of the informed culture,” Cohen said.

Ross, he said, was “f—— his business” with a fundraiser for the president.

Ross’ Related Companies, through which he owns Equinox and SoulCycle, owns numerous other food, fitness and lifestyle brands. He has been a major Republican donor, according to The Advocate.

Both Equinox and SoulCycle said they did not endorse the Trump fundraiser and cast Ross as a hands-off owner, describing him as a “passive investor … not involved in the management of either business.”

“As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians,” Equinox said in a statement, according to the Advocate. “We are committed to all our members and the communities we live in. We believe in tolerance and equality, and will always stay true to those values.”

SoulCycle echoed that in its own statement to PEOPLE: “We know who we are and we know what we believe in, and nothing will ever change that.”

In his statement, according to the Miami Herald, Ross said he and Trump had known each other for four decades and Ross’ political support was in part based on a focus on the economy. He said he and the president “strongly disagree” on many issues.

“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,” Ross said.

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