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By Tony Attwood
It seems to have taken an awfully long time to get there but finally, the Tottenham Hotspur owner Joe Lewis has pleaded guilty to a range of insider trading charges in the USA – which means in plain English, fraud. He has apologised and admitted that he knew exactly what he was doing as the scam went on.
Mr Lewis, secure in the knowledge that because of his age (he is 86) and his wealth (he is said to be worth getting on for £5bn) he would not face a custodial sentence but will face penalties in terms of fines.
But he also faces possible restrictions on what sort of business activities he can be involved in, in the future, and that could imply that he might have to divest himself of some of his companies – including those which require him to have his own plane and pilots. Such as Tottenham Hotspur plc.
The technical details of the court’s findings were guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and of two counts of securities fraud.
What he did last year it seems is pass inside information about his companies and their financial well-being to two of his array of pilots and to some of his friends, personal assistants and what Sky delicately calls his “romantic partners”. I must say that as I am getting on a bit myself, I wouldn’t mind having a few romantic partners when I reach that age – so in that regard I am in admiration of the old codger.
As a result of the knowledge that these various people gained they were either able to buy shares before they shot up in value when a takeover was announced, or sell them before the shares crashed ahead of some bad annual results.
In his statement Mr Lewis admitted that he knew full well that what he was doing was a criminal offence. Indeed everyone in business knows that. Even I know that and my business is worth a tiny, tiny fraction of a fraction of Mr Lewis’ empire.
Apparently Mr Lewis is pleading not guilty to 14 charges of securities fraud and two charges of conspiracy, for actions that are said to have taken place from 2013 onward.
I am not clear at this moment, if this is part of a plea bargaining deal (meaning if he pleads guilty to some cases the rest will be dropped in order to save the public purse) or whether the Americans have felt that they are unlikely to get a conviction. Or it could mean that they have wrapped up one case and are now starting on the next.
As I understand it Mr Lewis is still not able to travel to England to watch his club play, and I am not sure if that will be reviewed shortly – or whether he will be granted a visa to enter the UK in the light of his criminal record. Our current government seems to be getting quite shirty with criminals coming to the UK.
Certainly, Mr Lewis can afford to pay the fine, and by and large American courts are keen not to put the very elderly in prison.
But all has not been going well for Mr Lewis, most notably with the failure of Tottenham Hotspur to find a sponsor for the stadium so far – something that might be a little more difficult now that he has been convicted.
Although Football London (always willing to oblige) recently carried a story which appeared to suggest that Mr Lewis felt that not having a sponsor had some benefits, although it was hard to see exactly what they were.
Since a run of four defeats and a draw in the Premier League last year Mr Lewis’ club has improved somewhat and they have had four wins, one draw and one defeat in recent matches leaving them in fifth place in the league. However their 31 goals conceded in the league this season puts them on a par with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea.
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