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Unread 01-12-2009, 08:20 PM
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Default Joe Lewis: currency trader with taste for a fight

Bahamas-based investor enjoys tennis, golf, and the odd boardroom battle

Bahamas-based billionaire currency trader and global investor Joe Lewis has his roots in the pub trade — he was born above the Roman Arms in Bow in London's East End. Since then, however, the 72-year-old's investment career has catapulted him thousands of miles away to a very different life.

He spends most of his time between homes in the Caribbean and Florida, rubbing shoulders with banking, investment and sporting superstars. Among his celebrity friends are golfer Ernie Els and actor Sean Connery. Best known in the UK for his controlling stake in Tottenham Hotspur, Lewis in fact has little interest in football, preferring sailing, tennis and golf.

His investment track record has never seen him shy away from high-stakes confrontations. He hoped to make a fortune riding to the rescue of US investment bank Bear Stearns two years ago, a punt that reputedly lost him more than $1bn (£600m).

The bulk of his wealth is said to come from currency trading and his Bahamas home is said to have screens showing foreign exchange prices in every room. Lewis is believed to be among a pack of speculators who teamed up with George Soros to bet on the pound crashing out of the European exchange rate mechanism in 1992. Their pressure forced the pound out, costing the Treasury an estimated £3.4bn and generating huge profits for Lewis, Soros and others.

Lewis is widely reported to be a good friend of Irish horseracing tycoons JP McM**** and John Magnier, co-investing with them on some projects in the past. In the early 1990s the three men were involved in a disposal of land to state-owned telecoms group Telecom Éireann that briefly attracted some political controversy, amid allegations the sale had been made at an inflated price. The affair ended in a critical report by a government investigator, but no one was charged with wrongdoing.

Despite his vast wealth Lewis has seen his fair share of takeover battle defeats in the UK, including failed attempts to take over Christie's, the auction house, Victor Chandler, the offshore bookmaker, and Wembley stadium.

Simon Bowers

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