Ex-Spurs owner Joe Lewis spared jail time for insider trading

A US federal judge handed the British billionaire, 87, a $5 million fine


Joe Lewis leaves the federal court in New York after sentencing in his insider trading case (Photo: Getty)

Joe Lewis, the billionaire former owner of Tottenham FC, was yesterday spared jail after pleading guilty in the US to insider trading and conspiracy charges.

Lewis, 87, a UK citizen living in the Bahamas, was instead sentenced to three years’ probation and fined $5 million (£4m) by a judge at a Manhattan federal court who noted the octogenarian’s life “would be at serious risk” if incarcerated due to his advanced age and poor health.

Ranked as the 39th wealthiest person in the UK in the 2023 Sunday Times Rich List and identified by the US government in court documents as among the 500 richest people in the world, Lewis on at least four occasions tipped off people close to him with insider information on publicly-traded companies in which he had made last investments, prosecutors in New York said.

Lewis’s girlfriend, friends and two of his personal pilots in turn used the secret information, provided between 2019 and 2021, to get rich themselves, according to the prosecution team.

“This insider trading was not the result of aberrant, one-time conduct, but rather, a troubling pattern of misconduct over the course of several years,” they wrote.

Speculating on a motive for his actions, the prosecutors said they could have resulted from “hubris, ego, a desire to make a financial gift without parting with his own money, an irrational form of greed, or some other reason.”

In January, Lewis pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud, and admitted he had been aware at the time he was breaking the law.

Prosecutors said afterward that his company, Broad Bay Limited, and Lewis would pay $50 million (£40m) in financial penalties, the largest such penalty for insider trading in a decade.

Although US sentencing guidelines called for Lewis to serve of 18 months to two years of jail time, prosecutors agreed that incarceration was not necessary, writing that he deserved leniency due to his age and because he “battles significant health issues”.

They also noted Lewis’s acceptance of responsibility, which he demonstrated by voluntarily surrendering rather than forcing a drawn-out extradition battle – the businessman has been in the US since last July – and said that has had “otherwise lived a law-abiding life”.

Sentencing the billionaire, Judge GL Clarke said: “It is clear to me that Mr. Lewis’s life would be at serious risk if he were to be incarcerated.”

During the one-hour proceeding, Lewis wore an eye patch, and one of his hands shook steadily, according to reports.

Prior to the sentence being delivered, Lewis spoke briefly, saying he learned growing up in England during the Second World War how “precious” life is and decided to devote much of his life to finding a cure for “horrendous diseases”.

Addressing the judge, he said: “Your Honour, I’m here today because I made a terrible mistake. I’m ashamed.”

He said he intended during the remainder of his life “to make amends and to rebuild the trust that I have squandered”.

Lewis was worth an estimated $6.2bn (£4.9bn) as of February, with homes in several countries; a £200m million yacht; private planes valued at £70 million and an art collection worth £80 million, according to US government documents.

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