How brands owned by Stephen Ross have responded following the fallout from Trump fundraiser

August 15, 2019

Via Flickr

After Related Companies CEO Stephen Ross’s plan to host a fundraiser for President Donald Trump leaked to the public last week, there were calls to boycott organizations owned by his company. Much to the disappointment of many millennials, Ross’s company owns Equinox, SoulCycle, and PureYoga, as well as foodie favorites Momofuku and Milk Bar. In response to the quick backlash, some of the brands released statements separating themselves from the Hamptons fundraiser, which raised millions of dollars for Trump’s reelection campaign. Others announced plans to donate proceeds to charity.

David Chang’s Momofuku

The Momofuku Restaurant Group, run by celebrity chef David Chang, donated last Friday all profits from its restaurants, including Fuku, Kāwi, Ko, Noodle Bar, and Ssäm, to various charitable organizations. According to Eater NY, the restaurants donated to Planned Parenthood, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), Everytown, and the Sierra Club.

In a short segment on his podcast, “The David Chang Show,” Chang urged Ross to cut ties with the president. “Steve Ross, if you’re reading this, I implore you to divest from Trump,” he wrote. “He is everything we stand against. Please turn your attention to fundraising for gun control and immigration reform.”

José Andrés

Chef José Andrés, who owns the Spanish market and restaurants that is part of Ross’s Hudson Yards development, asked the billionaire to cancel the Hamptons fundraiser. “I respect a person’s right to politically support who he chooses but these are not normal times!” the chef tweeted last week. “So I ask u Steve Ross to use your conscience! Cancel this fundraiser for @realDonaldTrump.You are a good man. Don’t support a candidate whose goal is to drive my beloved USA apart!”


Luxury gym Equinox faced some of the most wide-spread backlash, with celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Billy Eichner urging their followers to cancel their memberships. “Hey @Equinox — what’s your policy for canceling memberships once a member finds out your owner is enabling racism and mass murder?” Eichner tweeted last Thursday.

In response, the gym said: “Equinox and SoulCycle have nothing to do with the event and do not support it.” On Thursday, the executive chairman of Equinox, Harvey Spevak, announced plans to donate $1 million to benefit a handful of charities, including Cycle for Survival, the Heroes Project, Move for Minds, the Felix Organization, and House Lives Matter.

“We will continue to listen to your thoughts and ideas, and while we have a lot of work to do, I am confident that together we will come out a stronger community,” Spevak wrote in an email to members.


Following the fallout, SoulCycle offered its customers “social justice” rides, as Gothamist reported last Friday. CEO Melanie Whelan said the company’s instructors can teach a community ride for “whatever cause is true in their heart.” One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to causes selected by the employees, who will still be paid.

“This is about our values. So today, we are responding in the best way we know how—with diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and love. This is not the only answer,” Whelan said in an email to members. “But it’s our answer for today, so our community can start to heal.”

Rag & Bone, Prabal Gurung, & Fallon Jewelry

Most recently, fashion brands are getting on board with the Related Companies boycott. Quartz reported on Wednesday that labels Rag & Bone and Prabal Gurung have pulled out of the New York Fashion Week show at Hudson Yards. Rag and Bone will no longer put on its show at The Shed this September and instead will look for another venue.

Designer Prabal Gurung had plans, although unconfirmed, to put on an NYFW show at the climbable Vessel at Hudson Yards, but pulled out after hearing about Ross’s fundraiser for Trump. “Removing our brand and selves from this is my choice and that is my decision,” Gurung tweeted last week. “I am not expecting anyone else to do it, however it was the right thing to do, for ME, and I do want to speak out to create transparency and awareness.”

Ross’s wife, Kara Ross, is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Designer Dana Lorenz of Fallon Jewelry canceled her membership from the CDFA, writing in an Instagram post that she will “no longer participate if a woman that funds the current administration remains on the board.”

Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi

Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi separated herself and her company from Stephen Ross, calling him “one of many investors” in Milk Bar. “I do not personally support the policies of the current administration,” Tosi said in a statement.

“However, I also don’t mandate what people who work at my company believe politically. We support people having their own opinion. We support our teammates having their own opinion. At our company we employ Democrats, Republicans, and many doctrines in between.”

Other companies linked to Stephen Ross

The list of companies owned by Related Companies is long, but not all of them drew as much attention as Equinox or SoulCycle. Fitness brands Blink and PUREYoga have not released statements on Ross. Aussie coffee company Bluestone Lane and &Pizza have also remained quiet about their ties to Ross.


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