How Bad Is Greece? Worse Than You Think, Ross Says

Though other parts of the continent are improving, Greece actually is worse up close than it appears from the outside, investor Wilbur Ross told CBNC.

Wilbur Ross, chairman and chief executive officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC.
Scott Ellis | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Wilbur Ross, chairman and chief executive officer of WL Ross & Co. LLC.

Ross, a vulture capitalist who seeks to turn around distressed companies and who has invested heavily recently in Ireland, toured the region and said he found the country in disarray, with many citizens expecting Greece to leave the European Unionso it can establish its own currency and pay off its onerous debt.

"There's almost a feeling of resignation both among the people on the street and the wealthy people that eventually Greece doesn't stay in the EU," Ross said in a "Squawk Box" interview.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, said Ross, who believes that the impact of a Greek exit now will be less than it was earlier, when some economists feared that if Greece left it would trigger other debt-laden nations to do the same and lead to a larger crisis.

Greece would benefit from having its own currency, which it could devalue and make it easier to repay its more than $400 billion in sovereign debt.

"I've been in favor of Greece going out, frankly both from the Greek point of view and the EU point of view," Ross said. "I think there are enough firewalls being built up, particularly now that (European Central Bank chief) Mario Draghi is acting like the lender of last resort, that I don't think it would be that traumatic anymore. Most of the indebtedness of Greece is official debt, no longer private debt, so you don't have the domino problem."

But leaving the EU and returning to the drachma won't solve all of Greece's problems.

Ross described a country in turmoil, saying "It's really worse than I had felt it was" with "makeshift mosques being put up in the streets in Athens by some of the illegal immigrants."

Local politicians are trying to capitalize on the economic fears by blaming the crisis on Germany, which has resisted several EU attempts to bail out Greece.

"Some of the local politicians are starting to play the ethnic card on Germany," Ross said. "There's obviously a lot of resentment in Greece to what happened in World War II, and some of the local politicians are piling in, saying it's not really the EU, it's just the Germans being mean."