Paramours, Pilots and a Poker Pal: Longtime Tottenham Owner Allegedly Shared Ins

Joe Lewis at a Tottenham vs. Arsenal soccer match in north London in 2011. Picture Credits: Getty Images
Joe Lewis at a Tottenham vs. Arsenal soccer match in north London in 2011. Picture Credits: Getty Images


  • Joe Lewis, the 86-year-old billionaire whose family trust now controls the English soccer team, is a defendant in New York

The globe-trotting billionaire Joe Lewis , longtime owner of the London soccer club Tottenham Hotspur, spent the evening of July 25, 2019, with a woman who was then his girlfriend, dining on room service at the Four Seasons hotel in Seoul. U.S. prosecutors say he also fed her confidential information about coming disclosures by a life-sciences company that she used to make stock trades that ultimately netted her hundreds of thousands of dollars. That tip and others that Lewis, 86, allegedly passed along to paramours, personal pilots and a poker buddy have placed him in the crosshairs of U.S. insider-trading rules . They have also made him an unusual defendant because of his advanced age, foreign residency, outsize wealth and apparent lack of personal motivation to secure insider profits himself. Lewis, a resident of the Bahamas, surrendered in Manhattan last week and was charged with 16 counts of securities fraud and three counts of conspiracy. He is also facing civil charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission. A federal judge released him on a $300 million bond, a likely record figure that eclipsed the $250 million bond package for the onetime crypto darling Sam Bankman-Fried , who lived in a resort Lewis co-owned before being extradited to the U.S. on fraud charges. During a brief court appearance, Lewis sat stoically next to his lawyer and only spoke once to plead not guilty. His bond was secured in part with his yacht Aviva, a 322-foot vessel he is no longer allowed to board, because of travel restrictions imposed by the court. His lawyer, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, said the government had made an “egregious error in judgment" in charging Lewis. The prosecution sets a new marker for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Lewis is among the office’s most prominent insider-trading targets in years. “Federal prosecutors have spent much of 2023 bringing cases targeting crypto," said Mark Bini, a former prosecutor and a partner at the law firm Reed Smith. “This high-profile indictment appears to be a shot across the bow that insider trading remains a top priority." Raised in a gritty neighborhood of East London, Lewis left school at 15 to work as a waiter at his father’s pub business. He later greatly expanded the business into tourist-themed restaurants. In the late 1970s, having sold the family business, Lewis relocated to the Bahamas and has since spent most of his time there, running Tavistock Group, an international private investment firm he founded with a portfolio that includes hundreds of companies in agriculture, sports, resort properties and life sciences. He built a reputation as a currency trader, reportedly making hundreds of millions of pounds off the collapse of the British pound in 1992 and the Mexican peso in 1994. His success as a heavyweight currency speculator earned him the nickname of “The Boxer" in markets for his almost namesake Joe Louis. In 2007, he invested heavily in Bear Stearns, ultimately losing hundreds of millions of dollars after the bank’s demise. Decades ago Lewis bought about a third of Tottenham Hotspur, a North London club in the Premier League. He eventually built up his stake to a majority. He was the longest-serving owner in the league until recent months, when he gave majority control to a family trust. It couldn’t immediately be determined whether Lewis knew about the insider-trading probe when he made the changes to Tottenham’s control. The league this year tightened its rules regarding ownership, disqualifying a person or company subject to government sanctions or found to have committed crimes including violence, corruption, tax evasion and fraud. The indictment against Lewis describes a life of luxury and jet-setting, peppered with access to confidential information about his investments, from cancer-therapy clinical trials to the impact of flooding on an Australian cattle-ranch business. Mentioned is an episode in September 2019, when an officer of Boxer Capital, a biotech investment fund of which Lewis is majority owner, visited Lewis on the Aviva, then docked in California. Prosecutors said that while on the yacht, the Boxer official received a confidential update about promising clinical-trial results for a cancer treatment developed by Mirati Therapeutics , a publicly traded oncology company in which Lewis invests. The official allegedly shared the news with Lewis over dinner. About a week later, authorities said, Lewis called Carolyn Carter, a Virgin Islands actress and beauty-pageant winner who was then his girlfriend, and told her to buy Mirati. “All good & all confirmed," Carter said in an email to Lewis, after buying 16,400 shares of the company, using almost all the funds in her brokerage account, according to the indictment. The next month, prosecutors said, Boxer gave Lewis another Mirati update, about the coming announcement of the trial results, and this time he tipped off his two longtime pilots. “Boss is helping us out and told us to get ASAP," one of the pilots messaged a friend. The friend replied with four clapping emojis, the SEC said in its civil suit. U.S. authorities said the tips kept coming. Before the Mirati announcement, Lewis told his executive assistant and several friends—including a poker buddy in Argentina and someone with whom he was romantically involved—to buy the stock, prosecutors said. The day after Mirati announced its encouraging trial results, its stock closed up more than 16%. Carter, the pilots, the assistant and the friends all sold their stock. Carter, who didn’t respond to a request for comment, wasn’t charged in the criminal case but was named in the SEC civil case. Insider-trading law has evolved over decades based on court precedent. Years ago Lewis might have avoided insider-trading charges because individuals who gave inside information often wouldn’t be held liable if they didn’t receive any financial gain, said Seth Taube, a former prosecutor and SEC enforcement attorney. “Unless you made money on inside information or received some real benefit, you normally had a get-out-of-jail card," said Taube, general counsel at the consulting firm McKenna & Associates. By 2016, he said, that loophole was closed after the Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors didn’t have to show that tipsters received something of value for passing along inside information. “Giving a gift of trading information is the same thing as trading by the tipper followed by a gift of the proceeds," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the court. During the Four Seasons stay in Seoul, prosecutors said Lewis provided Carter with confidential market-moving tips about Solid Biosciences , a company in which he was one of the largest stockholders. She used nearly all of her available brokerage funds to purchase 150,000 shares of the company for about $700,000, according to prosecutors. The next day the lovers flew to Massachusetts on his private jet. Lewis is accused of relaying the information to his pilots on the flight, urging them to buy the stock as soon as possible. When the company publicly disclosed the information, the stock soared and Carter eventually netted more than $800,000, prosecutors said. The pilots also allegedly sold their Solid Biosciences stock for a profit. Write to James Fanelli at , Corinne Ramey at and David Luhnow at

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