Wilbur Ross and the Bank of Ireland


In August 2011, Wilbur Ross, an American investor whose firm, WL Ross & Co LLC, specialized in distressed and bankrupt companies, was part of a group that raised $1.6 billion to purchase 35% of the Bank of Ireland. Even for Ross, known for his ability to find value in properties that other investors had shunned, investing in an Irish bank seemed risky.

Ireland had grown rapidly in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but had experienced a massive contraction beginning in 2008. Stabilizing the banks required a succession of government interventions and finally a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

In early 2013, Ross's investment seemed successful. But problems remained. Europe had not yet recovered from the financial crisis, and a number of peripheral countries in the euro zone continued to struggle. The Irish economy was recovering more slowly than had been expected. The press continued to deride the bank management, particularly CEO Richie Boucher. And the Irish government could always intervene in the Bank should public pressure over fees and profits increase.

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