Bank of Ireland rescuer Wilbur Ross tipped for top Trump role

Businessman made €500 million profit from investment in the Irish lender during crisis

Wilbur Ross is best known in Ireland for leading a group of five investors that acquired a 35 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland in 2011 for €1.1 billion, saving the group from nationalisation

Wilbur Ross is best known in Ireland for leading a group of five investors that acquired a 35 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland in 2011 for €1.1 billion, saving the group from nationalisation

 

US billionaire Wilbur Ross, who made €500 million leading a rescue investment on Bank of Ireland at the height of the financial crisis, has emerged as the leading candidate for a top role in US president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet.

Activist investor and all long-time Trump supporter Carl Icahn said on Tuesday that the president-elect is considering Mr Ross for the position of commerce secretary, while former Goldman Sachs partner Steven Mnuchin has been short-listed to become treasury secretary. Speculation had been growing in the past week around both Wall Street veterans becoming key members of the incoming president’s team.

Mr Ross (78) is the founder of New York private equity firm WL Ross & Co, which focused on investing in and restructuring ailing companies. He is best known in Ireland for leading a group of five investors that acquired a 35 per cent stake in Bank of Ireland in 2011 for €1.1 billion, saving the group from nationalisation as the Government took control of the rest of the State’s main lenders.

Mr Ross, Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings and three US investment firms, Fidelity Investments, Capital Group and Kennedy Wilson, acquired the stake at the worst point of the crisis, just after the government’s borrowing costs peaked at over 14 per cent and Moody’s cut the State’s credit rating to junk following its international bailout.

Mr Ross went on to sell his shares between 2013 and 2014, making a €500 million profit, while leaving most of the other investors in the bank. The State continues to hold an almost 14 per cent stake.

Mr Ross remains involved in Ireland through a joint venture fund with Cardinal Capital Group, which provides subordinated debt financing for property development and investment. He is also part of Mr Trump’s economic advisory team.