Wilbur Ross: Possibly a Thousand Banks Will Close

Monday, 15 Sep 2008 | 2:12 AM ET

In an exclusive interview with CNBC.com, Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co., says he sees possibly as many as a thousand bank closures in the coming months. And this will create opportunities for investors.

Wilbur Ross CNBC.com Exclusive Interview
Wilbur Ross, chairman and CEO of WL Ross shares his reaction on the fallout of Lehman Brothers and explains why as many as 1,000 regional banks are set to go under. He speaks to CNBC's Martin Soong in this web-exclusive interview.

"I do think a lot of the regional ones will (close), just as they did in the last savings and loan crisis in the 1990s," Ross said. (Watch the full CNBC.com exclusive interview with Wilbur Ross on the left)

Ross says he will be looking to pick up smaller distressed institutions. "There will be opportunities, but we will need federal assistance in them, because what we're mainly looking for is stable sources of deposits, not so much the loan portfolio."

Ross feels that there will be too many people willing to provide capital to the large financials, which makes them less of a bargain than smaller banks.

When asked about his views on Bank of America's purchase of Merrill Lynch, Ross said that he didn't think that Merrill was in that dire a position.


"I think people in general felt better about Merrill's situation than about Lehman. I think ever since John Thain came in, he's done a wonderful job trying to fix what was a very difficult situation," Ross said.

He also noted that this was really now the second successful turnaround for Thain. "He (Thain)saved Merrill, went into BoFA ... Temasek, for example, went into something like a $5 a share profit out of this. So it's not a tragic ending."

"It will be very interesting to see where Thain ends up in the Bank of America hierarchy," Ross added.

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