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UK billionaire Joe Lewis pleads guilty in US insider trading case

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Joe Lewis, the British billionaire investor whose family owns Tottenham Hotspur football club, will plead guilty in an insider trading case brought by US authorities.

Lewis last year surrendered to US authorities after being charged with 19 criminal counts, including securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud and make false statements.

He was accused of giving confidential information about publicly traded companies to friends, private pilots, romantic partners and others, and lending some of them hundreds of thousands of dollars to trade on the knowledge.

Lewis had previously pleaded not guilty in July last year, and his lawyer David Zornow of Skadden Arps said the US government had made an “egregious error in judgment in charging” him. The 86-year-old was then released on a $300mn bond, with his 98-metre yacht Aviva and private plane put up as security.

His change of plea for some of the charges was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter. A lawyer representing Lewis, who is based in the Bahamas, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The billionaire real estate investor held a majority stake in English football club Tottenham Hotspur for more than two decades. That shareholding is now owned by a trust on behalf of his family. The Premier League side, which has repeatedly drawn interest from investors in recent years, previously described the charges against Lewis as a “legal matter unconnected with the club”.

Lewis, who was born in an east London pub in 1937, dropped out of school as a teenager and joined his family catering business. He found early success with a chain of themed restaurants before relocating from the UK in 1979 to the Bahamas. 

He built a reputation in financial markets for big, speculative trades on currencies, 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 $1bn loss after backing Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns ahead of the financial crisis in 2008.

Lewis is also the founder of Tavistock Group, which owns assets ranging from investments in more than 200 companies to real estate, agriculture and artworks by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Lucian Freud.

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