Jan. 18 (UPI) -- Billionaire Wilbur Ross Jr., President-elect Donald Trump's pick to serve as secretary of commerce, will face a Senate committee hearing on Wednesday morning after announcing he would heavily divest in the coming months.
Ross, 79, on Tuesday said he would seek to avoid potential conflicts of interest by divesting at least 80 assets and investment funds over the next several months and that he would step down from posts in more than 24 companies or funds in which he is financially tied.
Ross and the federal Office of Government Ethics on Tuesday reached an agreement about divestment to prevent conflicts of interest. The Commerce Department oversees the Census Bureau, the Patent Office, the nation's trade laws implementation and works with the business world.
Ross will not fully divest from his business empire, though. He said he will keep a financial interest in nine investments "solely as a passive investor." The Office of Government Ethics said it was not necessary for Ross to divest in those investments because there would only be a "remote" chance Ross would have direct impact on those financial ties.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
Ross is worth an estimated $2.5 billion, Forbes reported -- making him the country's 232nd richest person. He owns a home near Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.
Ross founded the private equity firm WL Ross and Co. in 2000. He sold the company to Invesco but serves as chairman and chief strategy officer. Before starting his own firm, Ross was in charge of Rothschild's bankruptcy practice for 25 years
I look forward to working with @realDonaldTrump to restore fair trade & stand up for USA jobs if confirmed as Secretary of Commerce.— Wilbur Ross (@WilburRoss) January 3, 2017
Ross made billions restructuring failed companies, often with layoffs and budget reductions. Ross helped Trump resurrect his casino company after bankruptcy in the early 1990s. He has been opposed to free trade agreements.
"Wilbur knows that cutting taxes for working families, reducing burdensome government regulations and unleashing America's energy resources will strengthen our economy at a time when our country needs to see significant growth," Trump said in a statement when he announced Ross would be his Cabinet choice.
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.