Earlier this month, the internet went into boycott mode after it was revealed that American businessman Stephen Ross was throwing a $250,000-per-ticket fundraiser to raise money for U.S. President Trump’s re-election campaign, reportedly collecting around $12 million. Ross, who has a current net worth of around $7.7 billion, is an investor in dozens of well-known companies.
But Ross is far from the only tycoon whose politics are prompting protests—a surprising number of businesses are financially tied to the 45th president in some way. And a lot of their businesses operate in Canada, too. Here are 15 U.S. brands that operate in Canada and donate to Trump’s campaign.
Equinox and SoulCycle
Hipster gym favourites SoulCycle and Equinox have distanced themselves from Trump, claiming that “no company profits are used to fund politicians.” But the fact remains that the lifestyle-focused exercise chains are majority-owned by Ross’s company RSE Ventures, bringing in over a billion dollars a year. They have locations in Toronto and Vancouver.
One way that companies can display support for a political campaign is through a political action committee, or PAC, which is a group formed to support and fund a particular candidate. TACO PAC, described as a way to provide “quick-service franchise restaurant operators with an easy and effective way to participate in the political process,” is a collection of Taco Bell owners and who made the maximum donation to Trump’s campaign in 2016. Though they have yet to donate to the re-election campaign, the Tex-Mex company’s long history of supporting Republican causes does suggest they’ll be backing Trump again. Taco Bell has over 20 locations across Canada.
One company that doesn’t shy away from its link to Trump is World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), owned by Linda and Vincent McMahon. The McMahons have been enthusiastic supporters of Trump for years, throwing some $6 million towards his initial run for the presidency in 2016. Linda was Trump’s pick to lead the Small Business Association, but she’s recently stepped down to lead a Trump re-election PAC, to which she’s already contributed $3.6 million. WWE holds events across Canada and has an exclusive pay-per-view agreement with Sportsnet 360.
Trump also has allies in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). President Dana White is a fervent supporter and friend of the president, but it’s Frank Fertitta III, owner of the limited liability company that runs the UFC, who has given the most to his campaign. Fertitta III, and current UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta, recently contributed a million dollars each to a super PAC which supports Trump’s re-election. UFC is aired on pay-per-view channels across Canada.
Molson Coors Brewing Company
The Molson Coors Brewing Company PAC and related individuals contributed $5,400 to Trump’s 2016 campaign, but the brand has been under extra scrutiny for the political leanings of Pete Coors, its chairman. Coors is a top individual contributor to Republican causes and personally gave thousands to Trump’s election campaigns, as well as throwing him a fundraiser back in 2016. Molson Coors has a number of subsidiaries with a Canadian presence, including all Miller beers and a stake in Ontario’s The Beer Store.
It might not be a household name, but shipping and office supplies company Uline is a huge business, bringing in a revenue of an estimated $3.5 billion per year. The owners, Elizabeth and Richard Uihlein, are quiet but steady Trump supporters, donating over $500,000 to his inauguration and fundraising for his campaign in 2016. They’ve already given $2.5 million to Trump-approved PACs ahead of the 2020 election. Uline has warehouses near Toronto and Edmonton and provides the core business supplies for many Canadian companies, from office chairs and packing boxes to safety vests and industrial light bulbs.
Snapchat is another company that links back to Stephen Ross—the start-up is one of the crown jewels in venture capital firm Vayner/RSE’s portfolio, which is partnered with RSE Ventures. Vayner’s CEO, Gary Vaynerchuk, has distanced himself from Ross’ politics online, but his habit of hanging out and talking sports with the conservative billionaire has led to some questions about how deeply he holds those principles. Snapchat has a global reach and is regularly used by Trump himself.
As a company, New Balance has flip-flopped on liking Trump depending on how his trade tariffs affect it, but owner and chairman Jim Davis is more settled in his support, donating over $400,000 to the election campaign back in 2016.
Marvel has boycott supporters divided. While chairman Isaac Perlmutter is a large donor to Trump and Republicans, giving over $350,000 to the re-election campaign, he has not overseen much of the company since 2015. Boycotters suggest contacting Marvel directly to encourage them to cut ties with their chairman.
Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder makeup industry, is a proud Trump supporter. Lauder, who sits on the brand’s board, gave over a hundred thousand dollars to Trump in 2017. He believes Trump to be a “man of incredible insight and intelligence,” and was unsurprisingly an invitee to the notorious Ross fundraiser. Estee Lauder is sold across Canada, and owns M.A.C, Bobbi Brown and Clinique, as well as 25 other make-up, skincare and perfume brands.
Wendy’s is part-owned by Trian Fund Management, Nelson Peltz’s huge international investment company. Though the company has only an 18 percent stake in Wendy’s, Peltz is known to be highly involved in his investments and is chairman of the board at the fast food company. Wendy’s was already the subject of a boycott because of its questionable food sourcing practices, but the many thousands of dollars that Peltz has contributed to Trump as an individual certainly hasn’t helped. There are over 360 Wendy’s locations in Canada.
Bluestone Lane Coffee
Australian company Bluestone Lane Coffee is another member of the RSE Ventures family, with locations across the U.S. and a brand new location in Toronto. The coffee chain is keeping out of the boycott storm and has not commented on its stance on Ross or Trump.
The venerable fashion company known for its preppy styles is part-owned by Linda Bean, granddaughter of the founder Leon Leonwood Bean. Linda got in trouble with the FEC for exceeding the personal donation limit to Trump’s campaign, to which she has donated many thousands of dollars. LL Bean tried to distance itself, but Linda’s personal shoutout from Trump four days after its statement, encouraging people to “buy LL Bean,” somewhat undermined the company’s claim that it wants to “stay out of politics.”
The Formula One Group is in charge of all of the Formula One operations, including the annual Canadian Grand Prix held in Quebec. It’s 100 percent owned by Liberty Media, which is a company that doesn’t lack for Trump donors—chairman John Malone and CEO Greg Maffei gave personal and company donations to his inauguration of $250,000 each (and Malone seems to be gearing up to donate to Trump again this year, with $1,750 trickling through in the past few months).
Restaurant chain Momofuku is owned by Ugly Delicious star David Chang, but its financial backing comes from Stephen Ross’ company RSE Ventures. Since the backlash against Ross-owned brands began, Chang has pleaded with Ross to cut ties with Trump, going so far as to donate a day’s worth of Momofuku profits to various left-wing charities in response to online outrage. However, it has not escaped boycotters’ attention that Chang is one of the richest chefs in the world and could likely separate himself further from Ross if he wanted. Momofuku and offshoot Milk Bar have locations in Toronto.
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