Joe Lewis: Former Tottenham owner pleads guilty to insider trading

Joe Lewis no longer has any involvement with Spurs (REUTERS)
Joe Lewis no longer has any involvement with Spurs (REUTERS)

Tottenham Hotspur's former owner Joe Lewis has pleaded guilty to certain charges of insider trading in the US.

Lewis, the 86-year-old Bahamas-based billionaire, was hit with a 19-count indictment in New York in July – 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy for alleged crimes spanning from 2013 to 2021 – and was bailed after entering a not-guilty plea.

But at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan, Lewis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud, as part of an agreement with the local U.S. Attorney's office. He will be sentenced for these offences on March 28.

"I am so embarrassed and I apologise to the court for my conduct," he told the judge.

As part of his plea deal, Lewis has the right to appeal if he is sentenced to prison time, his lawyer David Zornow confirmed at the hearing.

Lewis pleaded not guilty to the other 16 counts.

Tottenham have declined to comment, having said in July the scandal was a “legal matter unconnected with the club”, and insisted Lewis no longer has any involvement with the club and is no longer the owner.

Spurs are 86.58 percent owned by Enic, which in turn is 70.12 percent owned by the Lewis Family Trust, with Daniel Levy, the club's chairman, and certain members of his family holding the other 29.88 percent of the investment company.

In October 2022, Lewis 'ceased to be a person with significant control' of the Trust, although it retains his name, and is not a beneficiary of it.

The Trust is managed by two independent trustees -- Bryan Antoine Glinton and Katie Louise Booth, both Bahamas-based lawyers with no background in football -- on behalf of certain members of Lewis' family.

The scandal will taint the reputation of Lewis, who hails from a modest background in the east end of London but became one of Britain's richest people.

Sources close to Lewis insisted in July that his decision to step away from the club was unrelated to the threat of charges and in keeping with the actions of someone of his age, but the move was well-timed for Spurs, ensuring they can remain at arm's length from the situation.

The club, though, is unlikely to be entirely untainted by the situation, given Lewis' long association with Spurs which began when ENIC bought a controlling stake from Sir. Alan Sugar for around £22m in 2001.

Lewis, who is worth a reported £5billion, always left the day-to-day running of the club to Levy, very rarely appearing at matches over the years and trusting the chairman to make key financial and football decisions.

Lewis' bail was set at $300million, secured against yacht, named the Aviva, and a private aircraft which are worth the equivalent value.

He has been forbidden from leaving the US, boarding his yacht or travelling in his personal plane unless attending a court hearing and limited to travelling between New York, Florida and Georgia, where he owns property.

Lewis' personal pilots, Patrick O'Connor and Bryan Waugh, were also charged, with all three men entering a not guilty plea in July.