Joe Lewis’ guilty plea to insider trading has narrowed his path to U.S. riches, but most of the British billionaire’s sprawling empire remains intact despite his self-confessed crimes.
The Tavistock Group founder — and any entity owned or controlled by Lewis — must resign from the boards of U.S. publicly traded companies due to last month’s plea. He must give up his stake in Boxer Capital, the firm for his biotech investments that has earned him more than 7,500% in returns. And he faces restrictions on interacting with certain staff.
Lewis can take solace in the investments he’s still entitled to hold: Florida golf courses, a private members club in Manhattan and one of the world’s largest private art collections.
Lewis, 87, who lives in the Bahamas, is also still able to keep investing in the U.S. outside public markets even after admitting to passing inside corporate information to his private pilots and girlfriend. He can continue allocating capital as well outside the nation, where the bulk of his assets lie. Those include a UK bridge-loan firm, a Mexico sportswear business and the Albany resort, a 600-acre Bahamas enclave featuring a marina for megayachts.
“The fact that he’s a billionaire and that he’s got a tremendous amount of financial wherewithal, I suspect he’ll be fine going forward,” said Brad Bondi, a litigation partner at Paul Hastings LLP and a former lawyer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “It won’t adversely affect him in the long run.”
A spokesman for Lewis — who has a net worth of about $7.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — declined to comment. Lewis is scheduled to appear again in federal court in New York on April 1.
Lewis founded Tavistock Group in the 1970s after moving from the UK to the Bahamas, where he expanded the fortune he first made from his family’s catering business by speculating on the British pound and Mexican peso. The firm now oversees investments in more than 200 companies worldwide.
One of Lewis’ most successful acquisitions, the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, was already shielded from the fallout of the insider-trading case. In October 2022, he transferred his majority stake in the Premier League team to a discretionary trust, a typical succession-plan move that ended decades of him being the club’s biggest individual shareholder.
Tottenham Hotspur, which is still listed as a key investment on Tavistock Group’s website, has more than tripled in value since 2016 to £2.8 billion ($2.3 billion), according to research from KPMG and Football Benchmark. Over the years, Lewis has been spotted in the club’s stadium during games, often wearing a pair of dark glasses alongside Chairman Daniel Levy, the father of Tavistock Group co-CEO Josh Levy.
Some of Lewis’ other investments have continued business as usual following the charges against him last year. Nexus Luxury Collection, an operator of private member clubs and resorts co-founded by Lewis, disclosed plans in October to open a new sports bar in Scotland, while Boxer Capital took part in a private placement for the pharma company Arvinas Inc. the following month. A trust for Lewis and his family also increased its majority stake in Australian Agricultural, a Queensland-based beef producer identified in the insider-trading indictment against Lewis. The company hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing.
Still, there are changes ahead for how Lewis does business in the U.S., where he previously suffered heavy losses during the 2008 financial crisis after building up a major stake in Bear Stearns before JPMorgan Chase & Co. bought the crippled U.S. securities firm.
His plea agreement also requires him to divest within his five-year probation period from Boxer Capital, a spinout from Tavistock Group’s life-science team that holds stakes in about 75 U.S.-listed biotech companies worth $1.9 billion overall, according to latest filings. Lewis is the main financier for Boxer Capital, which now makes up the bulk of his listed U.S. holdings. Its listed U.S. assets under management climbed more than 1,000% in the past decade, filings show.
Boxer Capital had planned to split from Lewis before he was charged and intends to complete that process well ahead of his probation period ending, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because the details are private.
A representative for San Diego-based Boxer Capital declined to comment. The firm hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.
As part of the agreement, Lewis’ company, Broad Bay Ltd., also pleaded guilty to securities fraud and agreed to pay a $50 million fine, representing less than 1% of the billionaire’s calculated net worth.
“A billionaire might not be deterred by the money,” Allon Lifshitz, an attorney at the New York firm Cohen & Gresser and a former U.S. federal prosecutor, said about the plea agreement. “But the other conditions that will stop him from being on boards or assigning employees of his to boards will deter people like him to a degree.”
Lewis’ business empire has already absorbed some of the fallout from the case. Citigroup Inc. severed ties with the billionaire shortly after federal prosecutors filed more than a dozen charges against him in July, ending a long-standing relationship that ranged from equity trading to sponsoring some of Tavistock Group’s charitable golf events.
Lewis retains relationships with other banks including HSBC Holdings PLC, which he allegedly used to conceal his full ownership of the biotechnology firm Mirati Therapeutics Inc. A representative for HSBC, which has not been accused of any wrongdoing, declined to comment.
“The one big question is whether financial institutions continue to do business with him,” Bondi said. “I’ve even seen situations where financial institutions drop clients who are merely under investigation by the government even before they’ve been charged.”
Lewis is currently out on bail after pledging as collateral his private jet and 321-foot (98-meter) superyacht, Aviva, which he previously decorated with works from his art collection — which includes Picasso, Freud, Klimt and Degas. The plea deal will likely drastically reduce any sentence for Lewis, who faced as long as 45 years in prison.
Tavistock Group, meanwhile, said last month in a rare public statement that it has retained the law firm Sidley Austin to review its compliance programs, signaling possible internal changes for the firm.
Whatever Lewis himself does until his next court appearance, he’s likely to try to stay out of the spotlight.
“I really don’t enjoy sharing my life with the rest of the world,” he told The New York Times in 1998 in one of his few interviews. “One of the rewards of your success is the quiet enjoyment of it.”