Wilbur Ross to cut ties with lender

Wilbur Ross, US president-elect Donald Trump’s pick for commerce secretary, intends to sever his ties to Bank of Cyprus, but the private equity firm that bears his name isn’t planning to sell its stake in the lender, according to sources. He will also probably sell his rights to as much as half of the incentive fees available to partners on investments.

Mr Ross, 79, is best known here as the buyer of Bank of Ireland shares at 10 cent a share during the crisis and who made many millions when he sold the stake over two years ago.

Mr Ross, who’s worth about €2.78bn made big bets on other troubled European banks after the financial crisis and has reaped handsome profits in the UK too.

The billionaire investor sold WL Ross & Co a decade ago, and the firm is under no obligation to sell its 1.6% stake in the Cypriot lender.

Mr Ross does plan to step down as vice chairman of Bank of Cyprus, the sources said, and he’d have to give up his continuing roles at his eponymous firm as chairman, chief strategy officer and a member of the investment committee if confirmed.

At Bank of Cyprus, which he’s trying to turn around with the help of former Deutsche Bank chief executive Josef Ackermann, the results haven’t been so good. His firm won’t make money until the bank’s shares jump by almost 50% from their current price.

A fund overseen by WL Ross is one of the biggest shareholders in the Cypriot lender, which is the nation’s largest. Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg owns 5.5% through his Bahamas-based Renova Group. Mr Ross sold his firm to asset manager Invesco in 2006.

Three years into its turnaround plan, the Cypriot lender is looking to list in London as early as next month to help boost share trading.

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