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British billionaire Joe Lewis is working to block JP Morgan Chase's $236m discounted takeover of Bear Stearns in order to negate the $1bn (£500m) loss he now faces.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt that Mr Lewis bought his stake in Bear in cash, and did not leverage it
Mr Lewis, whose Tavistock Group is Bear's second largest investor with a 9.4pc stake, is understood to be deeply unhappy with JP Morgan's $2-a-share offer.
The offer, values the stricken investment bank at 1/15th of its closing $30 share price on Friday evening, and at a fraction of Bear's 52-week high of $159.36 last spring. Mr Lewis, the East End-born currency trader with a fortune in excess of $5bn, is known to be actively involved in a number of alternative strategies, including talking to a number of potential rival bidders who might act as a white-knight on behalf of Bear's major shareholders.
Other options he is considering include voting against JP Morgan's offer at the scheduled shareholders' meeting, something that would only work if he were to garner the support of other investors.
The largest investor in Bear is American fund manager Barrow, Hanley, Mewhinney & Strauss, which is part of Old Mutual, and owns a 9.7pc stake. Bear's 15,000 employees own about 30pc of the bank's equity and, given that many of those shares were earned in lieu of pay and bonuses, they are likely to support any strategy that increases the eventual payout.
advertisementWere Mr Lewis to be successful in blocking the Bear/JP Morgan transaction, it would provide the Federal Reserve with a considerable headache, leaving it with tens of billions of potential liabilities.