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BANKING

Wilbur Ross builds from the bottom up

The billionaire investor is one of the world’s most successful buyers of distressed assets. He talks to Sudip Roy in New York about value destruction, a Middle East partnership and his strategy for the future.

Wilbur Ross

"I don’t think it is a Great Depression, I don’t think it’s Armageddon but I think that it’s purely wishful thinking for people to be forecasting a sharp V-shaped recovery"
Wilbur Ross

DUBBED "THE KING of bankruptcy" by Fortune magazine, Wilbur Ross built his reputation at Rothschild in the 1970s and 1980s as a bankruptcy adviser to creditors and shareholders in troubled companies such as TWA, Donald Trump’s Taj Mahal and Drexel Burnham Lambert. In 1997 he established a private equity fund at Rothschild. Shunning the dotcom bubble that was inexorably being inflated at the time, he managed to produce triple-digit annual average returns from old-economy-type companies such as Plains All-America Pipeline and AES Thames.

In 2000, after 24 years at Rothschild, he bought out the fund and set up WL Ross & Co, with $440 million in investor money aimed at exploiting opportunities in a range of industries including steel, coal, textiles, automotive products, telecoms and financial services. Backers included Goldman Sachs, GE Capital and US pension fund Calpers.

In 2005 Ross entered into one of his most successful-ever transactions when he sold Ohio-based International Steel Group to Lakshmi Mittal for $4.5