Did Spurs boss give illegal share tips to friends and a beauty queen?
As Tottenham Hotspur boss Joe Lewis hands himself in to face charges of insider trading, TOM LEONARD asks – did the East End-born rags-to-riches billionaire give illegal share tips to friends, his personal pilots and even a beauty queen?
- READ MORE: Spurs boss faces jail time after being accused of insider training
Billionaire businessman Joe Lewis is known as the ‘silent owner’ of Tottenham Hotspur FC but, according to prosecutors in Manhattan, that may be the only area of his business life where he keeps his mouth shut.
Friends, PAs, ‘romantic partners’, pilots of his private jet, even poker buddies: it’s alleged that few of the people with whom he interacted didn’t receive illegal investment tips from the tycoon, in what officials in New York have called a ‘brazen insider- trading scheme’.
It’s sensationally claimed this strictly non-public information — on anything from groundbreaking clinical trials on cancer drugs to the effects of flooding on Australian cattle farming — was gleaned from Lewis’s privileged boardroom access… and then used to make millions by well-timed trades on the stock markets before the knowledge went public.
And these were no accidental slips during casual conversations, it’s alleged.
If the favoured recipients didn’t have the money to act on his illegal ‘stolen’ information, Lewis was ready to give it to them, in one case providing £386,000 loans to the pilots who fly him to and from his various homes and the £200 million superyacht where the famously reclusive businessman lives for months at a time.
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Superyacht: The £200m Aviva boasts an impressive art collection
In turn, the recipients passed on the tips to friends, sometimes in WhatsApp messages that, as one of the pilots incorrectly assured a contact, were encrypted so ‘no one can ever see’.
Now 86-year-old Lewis has been charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy for offences from 2013 to 2021. The charges each carry a maximum sentence of between five and 25 years.
READ MORE: Tottenham’s Joe Lewis faces jail time after being accused of insider training and surrendering to the FBI at 6.30am
After surrendering to U.S. authorities in New York, Lewis denied the charges when he appeared in front of a judge yesterday, and prosecutors demanded a £230 million bail secured by his yacht and private jet.
Lewis’s two pilots, Patrick O’Connor and Bryan Waugh, also pleaded not guilty yesterday to securities fraud charges.
The U.S. government’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) further filed a civil suit against Lewis, the pilots and the married Lewis’s ‘ex-girlfriend’, former beauty-pageant queen Carolyn Carter, 33.
The SEC is seeking penalties and the ‘disgorgement of ill-gotten gains’ that — in the case of the pilots and girlfriend — were estimated at more than £422,000.
Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, claimed Lewis had ‘abused his access to corporate boardrooms’ and that the tips he passed on ensured his associates that the ‘bets were a sure thing’.
He went on: ‘Joe Lewis is a wealthy man. But, as we allege, he used inside information as a way to compensate his employees or shower gifts on his friends and lovers. That’s classic corporate corruption. It’s cheating. And it’s against the law.’
A lawyer representing Lewis — who is estimated to be worth more than £5 billion — vowed to defend him vigorously in court, saying: ‘The government has made an egregious error in judgment in charging Mr Lewis, a man of impeccable integrity and prodigious accomplishment.’
He added: ‘Mr Lewis has come to the U.S. voluntarily to answer these ill-conceived charges.’
Tottenham Hotspur FC has refused to comment. Although Lewis has been the North London club’s biggest financial provider for decades, helping to pay for its new £1.2 billion stadium in 2019, he rarely attends matches.
His company, ENIC Sports, still owns 85 per cent of the club’s shares, although last October, Spurs made a filing to Companies House saying that Lewis was ‘no longer a person with significant control at the club’.
Born above a pub to a Jewish family in Bow, East London, Lewis left school at 15 to join the family catering business, working as a £6-a-week waiter.
He likes to relate how he would heave a concrete bus stop sign from its usual place and position it outside his father’s cafe to attract customers — just the first of many astute business brainwaves.
He became one of the UK’s most remarkable rags-to-riches stories as he made his early fortune from the Beefeater pub chain, before selling up and moving into far more lucrative currency trading.
His heavyweight business reputation and the similarity of his name to that of champion fighter Joe Louis long ago earned him the nickname of ‘The Boxer’. Lewis decamped permanently to the Bahamas in 1979 and became a tax exile, buying a multi-million pound home next to the late Sean Connery’s and reportedly having screens installed in almost every room to monitor exchange rates.
Lewis also owns large homes in Florida and Argentinian Patagonia.
Lewis took control of Tottenham in 2001 from Lord ‘You’re Fired’ Sugar. Since then, the club has stuttered and looks set to lose its biggest asset, striker Harry Kane (pictured), to Bayern Munich
Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis (centre) in the stands with chairman Daniel Levy (right)
British billionaire Joe Lewis sits with his lawyer David Zorno, charged with orchestrating what prosecutors called a ‘brazen’ insider trading scheme, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Valerie Figueredo in Manhattan federal court in New York City on Tuesday (courtroom sketch)
In 1999, it was claimed Lewis had made so many enemies in Argentina that someone had tried to assassinate him, blowing up his helicopter and killing its pilot just after Lewis and his wife, Jane, had got out of it to go for lunch.
Meanwhile, his ownership of most of the land around the stunning Escondido Lake in Patagonia has caused tensions with locals — including mass protests — after he tried to restrict access to the lake and its water.
An inveterate gambler — he’s been known to wager £30,000 on a single hole at golf — he made a fortune when he and U.S. billionaire George Soros bet against the pound in the days before the 1992 sterling crisis, dubbed ‘Black Wednesday’, which forced the pound out of the EU’s exchange rate mechanism.
Always intently focused on making money — for years he reportedly reversed the charges when he called his London brokers — his reputed Midas touch failed him badly when he took a nearly 10 per cent stake in the U.S. bank Bear Stearns shortly before it nearly collapsed. It was bought by rival JPMorgan Chase for a knockdown price, reportedly wiping $1 billion off Lewis’s fortune (a third of it back then) in a single day.
His investment in Spurs hasn’t been an unbridled success, either. He took control of the club in 2001 from Lord ‘You’re Fired’ Sugar. Since then, the club has stuttered and looks set to lose its biggest asset, striker Harry Kane, to Bayern Munich.
Lewis also has a major stake in British pub chain Mitchells & Butlers, as well as the Albany Bahamas Club, an enclave for the super-rich that was home to alleged cryptocurrency fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried before his arrest last year.
Lewis’s yacht, Aviva, was the first to house an indoor paddle tennis court. The vessel is also home to a good chunk of his $1 billion art collection, which includes works by Picasso, Matisse and Degas.
Today, his Tavistock Group has publicly declared investments in more than 200 companies — including property, hotels and sports — across 13 countries, including the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean.
Some of these assets feature in this week’s startling 29-page indictment filed by New York prosecutors. It sets out how Lewis didn’t just break the law to help his friends and employees but also himself — he’s accused of conspiring to defraud cancer-therapy firm Mirati Therapeutics by using shell companies and other means to hide his stake in the business.
Most of the indictment, however, relates to alleged efforts to enrich others. ‘Notwithstanding his vast personal wealth, Lewis provided the inside information to his employees, romantic partners and friends as a way to give them compensation and gifts,’ it states.
Joe Lewis (right) at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with club chairman Daniel Levy
Damian Williams (pictured), the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, claimed Lewis had ‘abused his access to corporate boardrooms’ and that the tips he passed on ensured his associates that the ‘bets were a sure thing’
In 2019, members of beef company Australian Agricultural’s board of directors told Lewis the company would suffer a significant hit following monsoon flooding in Queensland and that insurance wouldn’t cover its cattle losses.
Before the information was publicly disclosed, Lewis allegedly called his two pilots and urged them to sell shares they’d previously bought in the business as quickly as possible.
However, according to the indictment, the tip-off came too late for them. After his stockbroker apologised, pilot Patrick O’Connor emailed back: ‘Just wish the Boss would have given us a little earlier heads-up.’
Feared attorneys who nailed Maxwell and inspired TV hit
Joe Lewis is only the latest of a string of high-profile financiers, businessmen and celebrities to be charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District Of New York (SDNY), or the ‘Sheriff Of Wall Street’. They are perhaps the most feared prosecutors in America.
Since 2021, the office has been led by Damian Williams, the first black man to hold the job and a former postgraduate at Cambridge. He would have overseen the prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein — taking up the baton of bringing the paedophile financier to justice after Florida prosecutors gave him an outrageously lenient plea deal.
But when Epstein died in jail in 2019, Williams instead secured a child sex trafficking conviction against Epstein’s partner-in-crime Ghislaine Maxwell. In December last year, Williams’s office also charged Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, with eight counts of fraud and conspiracy, in what may be one of the biggest financial frauds in U.S. history.
Then there’s Alvin Bragg, now New York County District Attorney who headed the investigation that led to the indictment of Donald Trump. No surprise he learnt his art working for the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY.
So famous is the office that it was dramatised in the TV series Billions, in which Paul Giamatti stars as Charles ‘Chuck’ Rhoades, U.S. attorney for the SDNY who tirelessly pursues billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis. Whether Joe Lewis suffers the same treatment, we shall see.
Lewis, who has two children (Vivienne and Charles) with his first wife, Esther, a former waitress in his parents’ cafe, is now married to Jane, his long-time secretary.
However, according to the indictment, another beneficiary of his insider information was Carolyn Carter, who was Miss U.S. Virgin Islands 2016.
The pair were ‘in a romantic relationship from approximately 2013 to 2020’ according to a court document. (In 2019, they were photographed together when his yacht appeared in Vietnam.)
Prosecutors say the pair were staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, in July 2019, when Lewis learned that a firm in which he was heavily invested, Solid Biosciences, had completed a successful clinical trial of a treatment for muscular dystrophy.
Lewis allegedly urged his girlfriend to buy shares in the venture. Prosecutors say she used ‘nearly all of her available funds’ to buy $700,000 of shares. The following day, it’s alleged, Lewis passed on the same tip to his two favoured pilots as they flew him to the U.S.
Later in 2019, Lewis allegedly told his girlfriend to sell her Solid Biosciences shares and invest instead in another firm, Mirati, in which he was a major investor after learning about developments in its trial of a cancer drug.
It’s claimed she sold the shares for an $849,000 profit and told her stockbroker that ‘time is of the essence’ in conducting the swap, urged on her by her elderly lover.
According to the indictment, Lewis also gave the Mirati tip to his pilots who seemed careless about their online communications.
O’Connor allegedly messaged a friend to buy the Mirati shares, saying: ‘Boss is helping us out and told us to get ASAP.’ The pilot reassured his pal that their crime wouldn’t be discovered, saying: ‘All conversations on app encrypted so all good. No one can ever see.’
In another message, the pilot allegedly said he believed ‘the Boss has inside info’ and ‘knows the outcome’ because ‘otherwise why would he make us invest’.
Prosecutors say Lewis also urged his executive assistant and three friends to buy Mirati shares before news of the clinical drug trial became public. All of those whom he tipped off later sold their Mirati shares for a profit, it’s claimed.
‘Being a trader means that you are wrong at the very least three times out of ten, and that is very hard,’ he once told Fortune magazine. One of Britain’s richest men may be about to discover his ‘hardest’ mistake yet.
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