|According to The Times newspaper, billionaire businessman Joe Lewis has been quietly building a seven percent stake in the UK’s largest bookmakers, Ladbrokes.|
The newspaper reported that Lewis was the ‘mystery buyer’ based in the Bahamas with a holding now thought to be worth about $600 million. The revelation ends weeks of speculation as to who was snapping up chunks of Ladbrokes after Citigroup disclosed in a series of statements that it was holding shares as ‘contracts for difference’ on behalf of one of its clients.
British-born investor reportedly believes Ladbrokes shares are undervalued and it is thought he is keen to acquire more blocks if and when they become available. Any bid could also likely involve a tie-up with Apax Partners, the British private equity group, which is known to have approached Ladbrokes in 2006 when it was de-merged from Hilton Group.
Lewis hit the headlines recently when he paid $860 million for a seven percent stake in Bear Stearns, the American investment bank, which had been hit hard by the US sub-prime mortgage meltdown, and has since increased his holding to eight percent. He also owns a stake in Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and has in the past tried to acquire betting group Victor Chandler.
Lewis is also known to be close to several other Ladbrokes investors including John Magnier and JP McManus, the Irish racing magnates, who are believed to own a stake of around three percent.