Billionaire PE boss and soccer club owner indicted over 'brazen' insider trading

Self-made business partner to Tiger Woods accused in US of leaking important information to lover, employees

Billionaire PE boss and soccer club owner indicted over 'brazen' insider trading

Joe Lewis, the multi-billionaire property speculator and owner of English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur, has been indicted over a series of purported insider trading activities, according to US prosecutors on Wednesday.

The British tycoon, who ranks among the wealthiest individuals in the UK at the age of 87, stands accused of secretly feeding employees, collaborators, acquaintances, and love interests with confidential details regarding the firms he had stakes in. It is also alleged that he financed certain individuals with substantial sums to capitalize on these tips. He faces 19 separate charges, including securities fraud, conspiracy to commit such fraud, and the dissemination of false statements.

The charges, unveiled in the Manhattan Federal Court yesterday, suggest that Lewis, along with his accomplices, amassed millions of dollars by exploiting the insider details, which also included secret positive results from medical research trials.

Lewis, whose business ventures are primarily controlled via his holding firm, Tavistock Consortium, is suspected of leaking intel about publicly traded bio-science corporations Solid Biosciences and Mirati Therapeutics, alongside Australian meat producing company, Australian Agricultural Co (AAC), and a special purpose acquisition corporation, BCTG.

Lewis's legal representative, Skadden Arps' David Zornow, refuted the charges, stating: “The government has made an egregious error in judgment in charging Mr Lewis, an 86-year-old man of impeccable integrity and prodigious accomplishment. Mr Lewis has come to the US voluntarily to answer these ill-conceived charges, and we will defend him vigorously in court.”

A spokesperson for the Tavistock Consortium was not immediately available for comment.

Among those Lewis is believed to have leaked information to are a lover, personal assistants residing on his $250 million luxury yacht, and a pair of his private aircraft pilots.

Prosecutors maintain that for at least a decade, Lewis utilized insider details, received due to his position on various corporate boards, to guide those within his circle on when to acquire or unload stocks before a fall in their market value.

In a notable 2019 incident, he supposedly informed his pilots about the impending financial blow AAC would suffer due to flooding in Queensland, suggesting they liquidate their investments in the company before the news became public. The pilots were unable to act quickly enough, as per the charges, but one reportedly emailed their broker saying, "just wish the Boss would have given us a little earlier heads up".

US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, accused Lewis of "exploiting his privileged access to corporate boardrooms" and ensuring his confidantes' "gambles were a guaranteed success".

Lewis's Tavistock Consortium, headquartered in the Bahamas, publicly asserts investments in over 200 companies spanning 13 nations, including the US, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It boasts an art collection featuring pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Gustav Klimt.

Lewis, a London-born self-made man who quit school at 15, entered the family food service business, and later created his own restaurant empire. He relocated to the Bahamas from the UK in 1980.

The foreign resident garnered fame as a currency speculator, similar to George Soros, by shorting the pound preceding Black Wednesday in 1992. However, he lost $1bn when Bear Stearns, a Wall Street bank in which he held an investment, was bailed out by JPMorgan in 2008.

Lewis's profile heightened when he assumed control of Tottenham, acquiring shares from British business magnate Alan Sugar. In 2019, Spurs wrapped up construction on a £1.2 billion stadium that has boosted its revenue, although fans have expressed dissatisfaction with the club's lack of recent significant victories.

Who is Joe Lewis?

British magnate Lewis, ranked 39th among the UK's richest with a net worth of £5bn, built his fortune in foreign exchange and investment. Born in London's East End in 1937, he left school at 15 to join his father's catering business, which he expanded before selling in 1979. This provided funds for his new venture, currency trading, which yielded considerable profits, especially during the 1980s and 1990s. However, the 2008 financial crisis saw him lose a third of his fortune overnight when Bear Stearns collapsed.

Lewis is the owner of the Tavistock Group, established in 1975 and now one of the world's top private equity firms. He founded the company in the Bahamas to evade UK tax laws and owns multiple properties globally, including his Bahamian mansion, a ranch in Argentina, and multiple homes in Florida.

The 86-year-old, married to his former secretary Jane, has two children. His daughter Vivienne is heavily involved in the family business, while his son Charles is relatively detached. Lewis enjoys golf and has business ventures with golfer Tiger Woods, including a luxury resort in the Bahamas.

His portfolio includes a variety of global investments, luxury resorts in the Americas, property in Bulgaria, an Australian agriculture company, and a superyacht called Aviva. Lewis also owns one of the world's most expensive private art collections. Through Tavistock and the ENIC Group, Lewis owns Tottenham Hotspur, becoming the Premier League's longest-serving owner, despite showing little interest in soccer.