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Joe Lewis has long been one of the richest people in the United Kingdom, but on Wednesday he admitted he was also a cheapskate.

In pleading guilty to felony insider trading charges in federal court in Manhattan, Lewis admitted he had handed secret stock tips to his long-time private pilots, in part, to make up for the fact he had never set up formal retirement plans for them.

As part of the tip-off, Lewis even lent his pilots $500,000 each to take advantage of the insider information he told them about on a flight from the Bahamas to Orlando, Florida in 2019. When the men successfully made big profits on the info, Lewis asked for his loan back, prosecutors had said.

The penny-pinching perquisite was one of a series of sure-thing tips Lewis admitted passing off to employees, girlfriends and pals to help line their pockets. “None of this was necessary. Joe Lewis is a wealthy man,” Damian Lewis, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York said in July, when Lewis was initially charged.

In a statement before the judge on Wednesday, the almost 87-year-old Lewis acknowledged his poor judgment and conduct, his lawyers said.

“Mr. Lewis is deeply sorry, embarrassed, and apologized to the court, his family, and all those who have come to rely on him,” his legal team said in a statement.

Lewis’ plea to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud, came as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors, but he reserved the right to appeal if he is sentenced to jail time, his lawyer said in court. Sentencing is set for March 28.

Prosecutors say Lewis, who Forbes has estimated to be worth $6.2 billion, carried on with the scheme from 2013 through 2021, helping his employees and friends make millions of dollars in illicit gains. 

Some people who benefited from Lewis’ loose lips included staff on his private, $250 million super yacht, the Aviva.

Lewis’ private equity company, Tavistock Group, has investments in hundreds of companies ranging from agriculture, sports, resort properties and life-sciences businesses. The firm owns works of art by painters like Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Gustav Klimt.

Investigators say Lewis shared information about publicly-traded life-science groups Solid Biosciences SLDB, 1.41% and Mirati Therapeutics as well as beef producer Australian Agricultural Co. AAC, +0.35% and a special purpose acquisition company, BCTG. 

Making his fortune as a currency trader, Lewis became more widely known when he acquired the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in 2001 for $35.5 million. 

In 2022, control of the club was turned over to a family trust and Lewis ceased having a role in its operation.

Lewis has lived as a tax exile in the Bahamas for years. 

Under the terms of his bail agreement, Lewis must remain in the United States and not travel aboard his yacht or private jets until sentencing. 

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