Politics

Equinox chief to members: 'I'm sorry for the impact' of Trump fundraiser 'on our community'

Key Points
  • Harvey Spevak, executive chairman of Equinox, apologized to customers of the upscale gym after a fundraiser for President Donald Trump's reelection campaign hosted by billionaire and the parent company's chairman, Stephen Ross, sparked a furor.
  • In an letter to members obtained by CNBC, Spevak tried to distance the business from Ross, chairman of real estate company The Related Cos., which owns Equinox as well as sister company SoulCycle.
  • Spevak announced Equinox will donate $1 million to five charities, supporting veterans' rights, LGBTQ+ rights and other causes.
Protesters chant slogans and hold signs outside the luxury gym Equinox in West Hollywood, California, August 9, 2019, during a protest against the gym and fitness company SoulCycle as well as against President Trump and his benefactor Stephen Ross.
Robyn Beck | AFP | Getty Images

Harvey Spevak, executive chairman of Equinox, apologized to customers of the upscale gym after a fundraiser for President Donald Trump's reelection campaign hosted by billionaire and the parent company's chairman, Stephen Ross, sparked a furor.

"The last week has been difficult for all. I am sorry for the impact it has had on our community – and I'm sorry we haven't said more," he wrote in a letter to members obtained by CNBC on Thursday.

Spevak tried to distance the business from Ross, chairman of real estate company The Related Cos., which owns Equinox as well as sister company SoulCycle.

"Mr. Ross is not the majority investor in Equinox. He is one of the investors including myself. He does not run the company. I do. I am the Executive Chairman of Equinox and have led the vision and strategic direction of the company since I joined in 1999. Our focus has always been about building a community centered on our values, not politics."

In the letter, Spevak said the company will donate $1 million to five charities including House Lives Matter, dedicated to LGBTQ+ rights and advocacy.

Tickets for the Trump fundraiser, which was held Friday at Ross' home in the Hamptons, a summer playground for the rich and famous on the east end of Long Island, went for as much as much as $250,000 and included private access to the president in a roundtable discussion.

VIDEO2:0802:08
SoulCycle, Equinox customers boycotting over owner's ties to Trump

That gathering, along with another Hamptons fundraiser, raked in about $12 million, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel said in a tweet Friday.

As news of the Ross fundraiser trickled out, it spurred waves of member cancellations and outcry from celebrities like Chrissy Teigen and Billy Eichner.

"There are a handful of billionaires who own everything and many support Trump," Eichner wrote on Twitter. "Practically speaking, it's probably impossible to completely avoid them. But considering @Equinox's clientele and how they've pandered to us, this one feels particularly hypocritical and shameful."

Equinox and SoulCycle issued a joint statement last week saying, "As is consistent with our policies, no company profits are used to fund politicians. 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."

Read the entire letter from Harvey Spevak:

To our Equinox Community -

The last week has been difficult for all. I am sorry for the impact it has had on our community – and I'm sorry we haven't said more. We have not been ignoring the situation. I have been in our clubs listening to our teams and members. I really appreciate the open and honest feedback I received. It's been heartfelt and, in many instances, emotional. I'm proud that even during this difficult time our community is one that listens and respects each other.

Many of you have asked for clarification on Stephen Ross's investment in Equinox. Mr. Ross is not the majority investor in Equinox. He is one of the investors including myself. He does not run the company. I do. I am the Executive Chairman of Equinox and have led the vision and strategic direction of the company since I joined in 1999. Our focus has always been about building a community centered on our values, not politics.

When I joined Equinox over 20 years ago, I worked with our then small team to create values that would guide us forward. They are the foundation of our culture, a culture based on equality, diversity, inclusivity, integrity, empathy and mutual respect. A community where everyone is welcome.

We live our values every day, which means giving back to the communities that have given us so much. We have helped Cycle for Survival raise $42 million for rare cancer research this year alone. We have trained injured veterans returning from war zones to climb the seven highest summits through The Heroes Project. We have partnered with Move for Minds to raise funds and awareness around brain health and women-based Alzheimer's research. We have worked with The Felix Organization, a charity focused on enriching lives of children in foster care. And we have been a proud partner of House Lives Matter, supporting the House Ballroom Community comprised of sexual and gender minority people of color (LGBTQ and gender non-conforming). Every one of these commitments was started with a single idea reflecting the priorities of our members and employees.

While I don't have all the answers, what we have heard from many of you is that you would like Equinox to immediately help amplify your voice in support of causes we as a community have always held close. As a next step, Equinox will make a $1 million donation to benefit the five charities mentioned above. From August 17 through August 31, every check-in will be an opportunity for our members and employees to select how our donation will be allocated among the causes.

I want to thank our amazing team and all they do in service of you, our members. It pains me to see how this has been impacting them and I am truly grateful for their commitment, passion and dedication. 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.

With gratitude,

Harvey Spevak

EQUINOX | Executive Chairman, Managing Partner