Billionaire Joe Lewis pleads guilty to insider trading

Joe Lewis leaves Manhattan federal court in New York City on 26 July 2023
Joe Lewis apologised to the court after entering a guilty deal as part of a deal with prosecutors

UK billionaire Joe Lewis, whose family trust owns Tottenham Hotspur football club, has pleaded guilty to insider trading in a US court.

Lewis, 86, was accused of passing on information about his companies to his private pilots, friends, personal assistants and romantic partners.

US authorities say that the fraud netted millions of dollars in profit.

Lewis pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud as part of a deal with prosecutors.

Lewis founded the investment firm Tavistock Group and was ranked 39th in the 2023 Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated worth of more than £5bn ($6.4bn).

He was arrested in July 2023 and charged with sixteen counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy.

Prosecutors had alleged that between 2013 and 2021, he abused his access to corporate board rooms and passed the insider information on to his contacts.

US attorney Damian Williams said those contacts made millions of dollars in "sure thing" bets on the stock market.

In a statement, Mr Williams said: "Today's guilty pleas once again confirm - as I said in announcing the charges against Joseph Lewis just six months ago - the law applies to everyone, no matter who you are or how much wealth you have."

In one instance, according to the indictment, Lewis told a girlfriend to invest in a biotech company in July 2019, before the results of a clinical trial by the company were made public. He then allegedly logged into her bank account himself and used $700,000 to invest into the company, eventually netting a profit of $849,000.

Prosecutors also said that as part of the scheme, Lewis hid the true size of his ownership stake in one company, Mirati Therapeutics.

In court in Manhattan on Wednesday, Lewis admitted he knew what he was doing was wrong.

"I am so embarrassed and I apologize to the court for my conduct," he said.

The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, and the two counts of securities fraud, each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.

However, the plea agreement allows Lewis to appeal the decision if is he sentenced to prison time.