Businessman with northeast Mississippi interests among Trump’s top financial supporters
A Florida man with prominent business interests in northeast Mississippi was among the top financial supporters of former President Donald Trump.
Ronald G. Wanek, age 80, of St. Petersburg, Florida, is founder and chairman of Ashley Furniture Industries. Ashley operates a high-profile furniture store in Tupelo and a very large manufacturing and warehousing facility in Ecru in Pontotoc County.
Wanek was recently listed, in information from public records, as among the top 30 donors to Trump’s presidential campaigns. According to the published data, Wanek gave $170-thousand to the Trump campaigns.
A few others in Trump’s top 30
While he is in the top 30 of Trump donors, many have given the former president more money:
- Ronald Lauder, son of Estee Lauder, gave Trump $200-thousand. Lauder’s fortune, most credit due to his mother, is estimated at $4-billion.
- Peter Thiel, who has accumulated a $2.3-billion fortune as an investor in Facebook and Paypal, gave Trump $250-thousand.
- Linda McMahon, the wife of wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, donated $360-thousand to The Donald. However, McMahon also got a job in the Trump Administration. Trump made Mrs. McMahon the head of the Small Business Administration (SBA) at an annual salary of $165,300. She kept the job for about two years, so you could more-or-less say she got her money back. Linda and Vince’s net worth was estimated last year at $1.7-billion, which makes them about half-a-billion short of making the Fortune 400 list.
- Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, was Trump’s biggest donor. He gave the former prez $1.05-million for his losing 2020 campaign. Ricketts, whose net worth is given as $2.1-billion, gave nothing to Trump in 2016, so he might have been better off to take his million bucks to one of the Trump’s former casinos in New Jersey.
What makes Wanek stand out from others?
Ronald G. Wanek stands out from many of the other Trump donors in several ways:
Wanek is a self-made billionaire, born poor and raised on a small farm in Minnesota.
Although his rank may fluctuate from year to year, depending on what assets he may have transferred to his children or grandchildren or his charities, Ronald Wanek is likely to stay on the Fortune 400 list as long as he lives: somewhere in the range of three to six billion dollars of solid net worth.
Wanek’s fortune is largely in tangible assets – real estate, factories, manufacturing equipment, furniture inventory, all those spiffy black trucks, etc. – and lots of real cash money. No ephemeral money manipulation or phony sports hype assets in his portfolio.
Wanek was giving money to Republican party causes and candidates long before anyone ever dreamed of Donald Trump running for any public office.
Haley Barbour of Mississippi, once the GOP National Chairman, has been acquainted with Ron Wanek for a long time. In fact, while Barbour was serving as governor of Mississippi, he and Wanek were guests one evening at a very small and exclusive dinner party in a private home in New Albany.
Ronald Wanek has been generous with his money. He has given millions to the Mayo Clinic. He gave $10-million, no strings attached, a few years ago to a small private university affiliated with the United Methodist Church.
And Wanek lives well, too. He paid $8.2-million eight years ago for a 10,814 square foot mansion on Tampa Bay in Pinellas County, Florida.
This reporter has never met Ronald Wanek. People I know who have met him do not admire all of his characteristics. He is not a saint. He is a hard-nosed, two fisted American original, who made his money the old-fashioned way: hard work, cajones, and a lot of what former President George H. W. Bush famously called “the vision thing.”