With longtime Spurs owner Joe Lewis facing federal charges for alleged financial crimes in the US, let’s discuss the suddenly bizarre state of affairs at the North London club.
In an era of multi-billion dollar overseas investment in club soccer in Europe and across the globe, Tottenham Hotspur have been an increasingly rare example of locally-owned stability.
Joe Lewis, the 86-year-old London-born currency trader and founder of holding company Tavistock Group, bought Spurs in 1991 just before the modern English Premier League as we know it replaced the old First Division. Long known for a rare art collection worth upwards of $1 billion, Lewis has largely stayed out of the spotlight as soccer has been concerned. Boasting an estimated net worth of $6.3 billion according to Forbes, he transferred control of the team over to a family trust less than a year ago.
So, when Lewis was federally indicted in the Southern District of New York on July 25 on insider trading charges, it came as a shock to the footballing world and put the future of Spurs ownership off the pitch very much in real question for the first time in decades.
Lewis, who turned himself in the following day and has entered a plea of not guilty, is alleged to have shared confidential information for companies he invested in with personal assistants, romantic partners, and even his pilots. The 19-count indictment includes charges of securities fraud and conspiracy between 2013 and 2021; he was released on $300 million bond secured by a yacht and a private plane.
In one case, Lewis is accused of loaning two of his pilots — both of whom face charges themselves — $500,000 each to invest in an oncology company before news of a clinical trial became public. Prosecutors maintain that Lewis also tipped a girlfriend off about this information.
Tottenham is known as one of England’s “Big 6” clubs alongside Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. In May, Forbes valued Spurs at $2.8 billion, the world’s No. 9 most valuable soccer club and No. 5 in England — notably ahead of North London archrivals Arsenal. With Lewis now under serious legal scrutiny, whispers of a potential sale have grown louder by the day after the club reportedly began to explore large-scale offers several months ago.
A report last week out of England floated a potential $3.75 billion bid from Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi, who also has a minority stake in the Phoenix Suns. The spashiest rumor of all, however? That a potential bid could be coming from a group inlcuding Jay-Z, who previously owned a minority stake in the Brooklyn Nets and whose Roc Nation Sports represents top soccer stars like Kevin de Bruyne, Vinicius Junior, and Romelu Lukaku.
Notably, Chelsea (Todd Boehly), Arsenal (Stan Kroenke via Kroenke Sports & Entertainment), Liverpool (John Henry and Tom Werner via Fenway Sports Group), and Man United (Glazer family) are already owned by US-based investor groups.
Tottenham’s ownership drama contains an additional wild card, as it arrives as the club weighs a transfer of all-time leading scorer Harry Kane. German giants Bayern Munich are reportedly prepared to raise their $80 million offer for Kane while Spurs mull external replacement candidates for the celebrated striker and English international.
While the summer transfer window closes at the end of August, it very much appears that the drama currently consuming Spurs as a team and a business has a chance to extend well into the new season.
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