Wednesday, October 18, 2006

THFC Power Brokers – Part One: Daniel Levy

The Waddler has decided to branch out into the murky world of investigative journalism in order to bring you, dear reader, the low-down on the men that really matter at Tottenham Hotspur. They are, in order of the power they wield, Chairman Daniel Levy, Vice Chairman Paul Kemsley and the mysterious man with the money, Joe Lewis. This will be a three part series that will attempt to dig deep(ish) into the lives and history of these three men, checking their Spurs credentials as well as their business acumen and maybe concluding whether they are the appropriate people to be controlling our football club.

Daniel Levy is 43 years old, Jewish, married, 3 kids, has a first class degree in Economics from Cambridge, and has apparently been a Spurs fan all his life. Together with Joe Lewis he owns ENIC, which stands for the English National Investment Company. The original aim of the firm was to be a holding company for various sports and entertainment enterprises. They at one point had a portfolio ranging from a stake in Glasgow Rangers to the UK chain of Warner Brothers stores. They began to diversify too much however and decided to focus on football, with the aim of owning a club in each of the major European leagues. However, in 2003 they took a controlling interest in Tottenham Hotspur from Alan Sugar, which became the jewel in ENIC’s crown and the other clubs were gradually sold off. ENIC also went private that year, when Levy and Joe Lewis bought out the remaining shareholders. As a result getting information on the firm is now difficult, but it seems clear that ENIC’s main focus is THFC, and to a lesser extent a holding in the Czech club Slavia Prague.

ENIC's ultimate owner is a company called Crailes Holdings, registered in the Bahamas, the tax haven where Joe Lewis lives and where it is not easy to find information about companies. The Guardian managed to get quotes from an ENIC spokesman who confirmed that Lewis is behind ENIC, with Levy, via family trusts, owning 29%. "It is very much a joint effort between Joe and Daniel," the spokesman said. "Daniel himself takes responsibility for the decisions at Tottenham." ENIC, according to the financial news service Bloomberg, own 32.7% of Tottenham, which means the Chairman effectively only owns 9.5% of THFC, less than Alan Sugar who has 14.7%. Lewis is therefore the man with the main financial interest, with over 23% of the club held through his holding in ENIC. The breakdown is as follows:

ENIC 32.7%
Amshold (Sugar) 14.7%
Hodram 9.9%
Schroder UK Smaller Companies Fund 0.8%
Small Shareholders i.e. fans 42%

Hodram Inc is a vehicle owned by the brother of EasyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Both are mad keen Spurs fans who simply want a stake in the club. In a similar vein Andy Brough, manager of the Schroder UK Smaller Companies Fund is a big Spurs fan which no doubt played a part in his fund having that particular holding.

So despite Joe Lewis being the money man, it is Levy that calls the shots and would be a difficult man to dispose, unless he falls out with Lewis of course. Levy’s other business interest is in property and he, Kemsley and Lewis are again involved together in a company called Rock Investments, which is half owned by Lewis and run on a day to day basis by Kemsley. According to the Guardian, in the year to December 2004, Levy was paid £240,000 by Rapallo, the vehicle through which Lewis owns Rock; and in the year to June 2005, he was paid £525,000 by ENIC for his work as THFC Chairman. More on the property angle in THFC Power Brokers – Part Two: Paul Kemsley.

In many ways Kemsley and Lewis are more interesting as less is known about them. We have had Levy as Chairman for 3 and half years now, and have seen him make some tough decisions such are firing Graham, Hoddle and Pleat, and make some astute decisions such as hiring Arnesen and Comolli. There were some errors along the way of course, and no-one was especially happy to have Pleat in temporary charge for most of a season only to appoint Santini, who ran off after a couple of months anyway. He is still fairly new to the job, and history will be able to only judge him years down the line, particularly on areas such as the stadium and training ground. He is often seen by many as being too interested in driving a hard bargain in transfer dealings, but you can argue that he is only spending the money wisely, and after allowing Hoddle to persuade him to part with £8.1m for Dean Richards, who can blame him? The man has taken Spurs into European competition, spent millions on players such as Berbatov and Zokora, and extracted as much as he could in the sale of Carrick and the compensation for Arnesen. Abramovich aside, there are not many chairman that spend enough money for the fans liking, but most sensible Spurs fans would be happy to have Levy in charge rather than a Risdale or Bates, running up huge debts with their Jam Tomorrow attitude over paying it back.

So is Daniel Levy a good man to have in charge of Tottenham Hotspur? Yes, probably. He has great business experience, is obviously intelligent, has backing from the right man, and things are pretty rosy in terms of the squad that has been built. He has a good man in place on the football side in Damien Comolli, and whilst the jury is still out on Jol there can be no argument that last season was a success, at least on a relative basis. It is what he does with the stadium that could be his lasting legacy however, and on that, the jury is going to have a long wait before it can deliberate.

Parts two and three to follow over the next couple of weeks after Besiktas and West Ham are taken care of.

The Waddler.