U.S. prosecutors have called an offsides on the British billionaire owner of Tottenham Hotspur soccer team, charging him with a “brazen insider-trading scheme,” in which he passed secret stock tips worth millions to his girlfriends, private pilots and assistants for years.
Joe Lewis, 86, who is one of the richest people in the United Kingdom, is accused of taking inside information about companies in which he was a large investor and handing it out to people around him for them to use to get rich.
“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,” federal prosecutors wrote in an indictment filed in New York.
Prosecutors say Lewis, who Forbes has estimated to be worth $6.1 billion, carried on with the scheme from 2013 through 2021, helping his employees and friends make millions of dollars in illicit gains.
Some people who benefited from Lewis’ loose lips included staff on his private, $250 million super yacht, the Aviva.
In some cases, prosecutors allege Lewis gave his pilots short-term, $500,000 loans to buy stock and then pay him back after they scored big based on his tips.
“Thanks to Lewis, those bets were a sure thing,” said Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “That’s classic corporate corruption. It’s cheating and it is against the law.”
Lewis’ private equity company, Tavistock Group, has investments in hundreds of companies ranging from agriculture, sports, resort properties and life-sciences businesses. The firm owns works of art by painters like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Gustav Klimt.
Investigators say Lewis shared information about publicly-traded life-science groups Solid Biosciences
and Mirati Therapeutics
as well as beef producer Australian Agricultural Co.
and a special purpose acquisition company, BCTG.
Prosecutors also allege that he hid how much of a stake he owned in cancer therapeutics company Mirati “through a pattern of false filings and misleading statements” in order to manipulate markets.
A message sent to representatives of Tavistock wasn’t immediately returned.
Making his fortune as a currency trader, Lewis became more widely known when he acquired the Tottenham football club in 2001 for $35.5 million.
He has lived as a tax exile in the Bahamas for years.