Souvenir King Becomes Britain's Newest Billionaire

By Blackhurst, Chris | The Independent (London, England), April 13, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Souvenir King Becomes Britain's Newest Billionaire


Blackhurst, Chris, The Independent (London, England)


CHRIS BLACKHURST

A man who made his money wooing Japanese tourists to his theme restaurants and souvenir kiosks by hiring staff who spoke their language has become Britain's newest billionaire, taking him within reach of Britain's richest man, Hans Rausing, with pounds 2.88bn.

Joseph Lewis is eighth in line, after Mr Rausing, the Swedish drinks packaging king - he runs the Tetra Pak empire - who lives in West Sussex. While Mr Rausing, 70, maintains a low profile, the secretive Mr Lewis, 59, leaves him standing. He holds court in Lyford Cay, the playground of the super-rich in Nassau, Bahamas, but is rarely seen in public and has never submitted to a press photograph. In the past year he has emerged, through his Abel investment vehicle, as owner of a 29 per cent stake in Christie's, the London auction house. The City is bracing itself for a full takeover bid from Mr Lewis, who recently took the unusual step, for him, of hiring a financial public relations firm. If he does make a play for Christie's. Mr Lewis may find his fortune barely dented. Some observers reckon he could be worth as much as pounds 5bn. From leaving school and joining his father's restaurant business - they ran the Beefeater by the Tower of London, among others to which Japanese tourists flocked because of staff and signs in their own language - he has proved himself an astute player of the world's currency markets, making millions from taking shrewd positions and building up an almost legendary reputation among dealers. The family firm was sold in 1979, for an undisclosed sum, and he became a tax exile. He owns a large slice of the Union discount house, and controls the English National Investment Trust.

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