Posted by: rajhotspur | June 15, 2011

The Curious Case of Joe Lewis- Tottenham Hotspur’s faceless billionaire owner


Its boredom time in the off-season now. The only thing really to occupy Tottenham minds is the turgid Luka Modric non-story (or so we all hope) or to give him his new moniker “£15 Million Rated Luka Modric”, apparently in this day and age if a no-mark like Jordan Henderson is worth £20 million apparently that makes our little Luka £5 million less. Work that one out, nope me neither(apologies to those who don’t like the London double negative there). The latest is that Chelsea want to put Didier Drogba in as a makeweight. Now I ain’t being funny but if Spurs start selling their best players to artificial football clubs like the Chels or City who have about 3 fans between them, then its time to give up and go home.  Hopefully though we can believe Danny and Harry and its all much ado about nothing.
 
The other “big news” is that Alex McLeish has resigned from Birmingham and may be on the verge of becoming the next Aston Villa manager. Whoopee Fucking Doo, seriously is that even newsworthy?? The manager of a football club from the world’s most boring city is moving to another football club in the world’s most boring city. All the Brummies seem to be up in arms over it, well I guess it makes a change from waiting for the day electricity finally reaches Birmingham.
 
Meanwhile at White Hart Lane, all seems to be quiet on the transfer front. Frustration with Harry has now moved across to the suspicion, backed by the rumour mill, that he too is frustrated by Daniel Levy’s reluctance to spend in the transfer market. Its a situation that we’ve found ourselves before with our Chairman. He’s a shrewd businessman but is that what we really need. In this day and age a football club needs a visionary, someone ambitious who is realises that risks are needed to take the next steps, not sit idly in the corner as the ship sails by. Our motto is “Audere est Facere”, although the popular translation of this is “To Dare is To Do”, there is a school of thought that the actual more literal translation is “To Dare is To Accomplish”, not as snazzy perhaps but perhaps more pertinent, for our current state. Goodness knows we hark on about our history and our past but We are Tottenham Hotspur, English Football’s trailblazers and yet now we seem to be resembling pregnant hippopotamus such is our state of inactivity at least from the outside.
 
All roads to Levy though eventually lead to the man who actually owns Tottenham, our own faceless billionaire Mr. Joe Lewis. A Currency Trader who made a fortune on the Sterling’s misfortune on the ERM, the day known as “Black Wednesday”, before my time on the Banking desks but if you listen to many of the older guys in the financial world it was a day to rival or even outdo that fateful “Black Monday” in 2008 when Lemans’ and AIG collapsed and the City went into meltdown and we were all walking round like zombies in the square mile wandering what the fuck was going on. To top things off Spurs also lost that Monday night to Aston “Bland Drab and Boring” Villa 2-1 at the Lane. It should have been about 6-1 to Villa. To say I had the right hump that evening as I was going home was an understatement. My career and possibly the industry I was working in was on the verge of collapse and to top it all off as usual Spurs lost. Top  Banana.

A face to our faceless owner

Anyway back to Lewis. Currently down as the 347th richest man in the world with a fortune estimated at around $3.2 billion, his range of investments range from Luxury Golf Clubs to biotechnology to the range of sports investments that he has accumulated under the Tavistock group portfolio of which Spurs is one. However how does our billionaire differ to the Abramovichs or the Sheikh Mansurs of this world. He lets Spurs run as an independent entity, free from any “financial doping” from a cash rich benefactor. Although since the last time Lewis really made the news was when he took a $1.7 billion hit on Bear Stearns he’s perhaps not as willing to actively willing to fritter away his hard earned cash!
 
As Spurs fans we have to be realistic, Lewis is certainly not in the league of the Man City sheikhs or even Abramovich and his stance on making Spurs a stand alone profit making vehicle is admirable. Football Clubs in general do not make you money. Chelsea and City are rich man’s playthings, and I’d never be happy with Spurs becoming that, no matter how many trophies came our way. We are a bigger and better football club than that. However at the same time , in my opinion its equally as bad for an owner to trade on the loyalty of as large and inelastic fanbase to make money for himself in order to ultimately sell the club on for a huge profit.
 
Football doesn’t follow normal industry conventions. If we don’t like the food at Sainsbury’s we’ll move onto Waitrose or Marks and Spencer’s or god forbid Tesco’s or Asda. Normal Economic theory would dictate that if we compare Tottenham to Chelsea for example, for a similar price we can get a higher quality product in Chelsea (going purely by results and recent success of course) hence a consumer should shift from Tottenham to Chelsea.
 
Of course it doesn’t work like that. Football club owners know that we ain’t gonna jump ship, once you’re Spurs, you’re Spurs through thick and thin, and lets face it there seems to have been a lot of thin. My point is that Joe Lewis realised this and saw Spurs as a business opportunity, he was never going to bankroll the club. Fair Enough in my book but at the same time is this approach also stopping us from reaching our potential. We are at a threshold, this is probably the best Tottenham team in my adult lifetime. However the vultures continue to circle, because of the Spurs business plan. Buy young and with a resale value.
 

However wouldn’t the value of the club be maximised if Lewis decided to take a risk. Raise the wage ceiling, not to a silly value but at least make it competitive so we don’t have this situation where moving to Chelsea could triple a player’s wages. What about dipping into his personal fortune to put the currently unviable NDP Stadium Project back on track again. 

If ENIC/Levy/Tavistock/Joe Lewis’ ultimate aim is to sell the club for a healthy profit surely the best way to do this is to invest in the playing squad and have a world class stadium, therefore making the club a far more attractive proposition to prospective buyers.

 
I’ve been in the money game long enough to know things aren’t quite as simple as I’ve outlined above and when it comes to all things Spurs I tend to have a more emotive outlook than I would do in my normal line of work. However even without my Spurs hat on, surely its easy to see that the current approach lacks ambition and is not a coherent strategy to compete at the top of the domestic game and subsequently the European circuit. It is therefore at odds with what the Chairman actually states in his open letter to the fans.
 
I’m not imploring our owner to overtake the Jones’ but at the moment we aren’t even holding onto their coat tails. The owners can’t have it both ways, and by continuing to charge high prices without showing the necessary ambition means they are conning their fanbase.
 
We have already seen the start of this, 15 years ago Tottenham were the biggest supported team in London by a country mile. For the latest generation of support I’d argue that Arsenal and even Chelsea are more popular because of their recent successes plus the usual bandwagon jumpers who support United or Liverpool in London. For a city that used to bleed blue and white this is unacceptable.
 
The ball is now in Mr Lewis’ court, prove your ambition, by all means continue to be our faceless billionaire but don’t let our club become an also ran.

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