Joe Lewis in the spotlight after he pleads guilty to insider trading in a Manhattan court


He’s the East End boy who became one of Britain’s richest men in a rags-to-riches story that included the acquisition of Tottenham Hotspur, a beauty queen girlfriend less than half his age and a sprawling business empire.

But the downfall of Joe Lewis was complete when he pleaded guilty to insider trading at a Manhattan federal courthouse on Wednesday.

Flanked by his lawyer, the currency trader turned business tycoon, 86, said he was ‘embarrassed’ after admitting conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud.

It leaves Lewis’s reputation in tatters – and shines a spotlight on the activities of his business empire.

These range from Spurs – the football club he bought off Alan Sugar for £22million in 2001 and now owned by his family trust – to pub chain Mitchells & Butlers, where he is the biggest shareholder alongside Irish horse-racing magnates JP McManus and John Magnier.

Plea: British businessman Joe Lewis (pictured) was arrested and charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy in July last year

Plea: British businessman Joe Lewis (pictured) was arrested and charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy in July last year

The empire also takes in his investment firm Tavistock Group, which owns property, sports, finance, energy and life sciences companies.

Lewis now faces 45 years in prison.

Damian Williams, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the guilty plea ‘confirms the law applies to everyone no matter who you are or how much wealth you have’.

It comes after Lewis was arrested and charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy in July last year. 

Prosecutors alleged that between 2013 and 2021 he passed insider information on to his contacts, abusing his access to corporate boardrooms.

Those given investment tips allegedly included an ex-girlfriend, former beauty pageant queen Carolyn Carter, who was told about a biotech firm in 2019 before the results of a clinical trial were made public.

He is even alleged to have logged into her bank account and used £551,000 to invest in it, eventually netting a £668,000 profit.

Insider information: Lewis's ex-girlfriend, former beauty pageant queen Carolyn Carter (pictured) was allegedly given investment tips

Insider information: Lewis’s ex-girlfriend, former beauty pageant queen Carolyn Carter (pictured) was allegedly given investment tips

In another instance, Lewis allegedly wired his private pilots Patrick O’Connor and Bryan Waugh £400,000 each to buy stock in a company.

O’Connor is said to have texted a friend: ‘Boss lent Marty and I £400,000 each for this’ and ‘the Boss has inside info… otherwise why would he make us invest’.

The shameful plea casts a dark cloud over a businessman who has shunned the spotlight despite having an estimated fortune of £5bn.

Lewis grew up in Bow, East London, and left school at 15.

He made his early fortune from the Beefeater pub chain, before selling up and moving into currency trading. 

He built a reputation in financial markets for big, speculative trades, including a profitable bet against sterling ahead of Black Wednesday in 1992, when Britain exited the European exchange rate mechanism.

However, he also suffered a $1billion loss after backing Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns ahead of the financial crisis in 2008.

He has kept his distance from his home country, decamping to the Bahamas in 1979 where he bought a multi-million pound home next to the late Sean Connery – and installing screens in every room to monitor exchange rates.

He also owns property in Florida and Argentina. ‘There are rich people who want attention,’ said a source who knows Lewis. ‘He isn’t one.’

Attention may now turn to the Mitchells & Butlers pub group, whose brands include All Bar One, Browns and Harvester.

Lewis bought into it in 2008, snapping up a 22.8 per cent stake from the property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz.

During Covid, Lewis and a group of super-rich tycoons seized control of the chain, forming a new entity called Odyzean, which holds a 57 per cent stake.

Tycoon: Joe Lewis bought Tottenham Hot - spurs for £22m

Tycoon: Joe Lewis bought Tottenham Hot – spurs for £22m

Odyzean is made up of Lewis, the currency trader Derrick Smith and Magnier and McManus.

The group is known as the ‘Sandy Lane set’ due to their ties to the exclusive Barbados hotel, a favourite of celebrities such as Joan Collins and Mick Jagger.

Empire: Lewis is the biggest shareholder in All Bar One-owners Mitchells & Butlers

Empire: Lewis is the biggest shareholder in All Bar One-owners Mitchells & Butlers

Perhaps most embarrassingly, though, the incident draws question marks over his involvement with Tottenham Hotspur, London’s richest club.

He took control in 2001 and has turned it into a commercial hit despite a lack of success on the pitch. 

Spurs are now 86.58 per cent owned by Enic, which in turn is 70.12 per cent controlled by the Lewis Family Trust.

In October 2022, Lewis ‘ceased to be a person with significant control’ of the Trust, though it retains his name.

The billionaire was widely believed to be the silent power behind the throne, steering the club’s chairman Daniel Levy in one direction or another – and jokingly referred to by many fans as ‘Uncle Joe’.

The guilty pleas could now raise fresh questions over the future ownership of the London club.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.



Read More

Leave a comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More