Enter Ladbrokes' Newest Stakebuilder

19 February 2008

Oft-courted bookmaker Ladbrokes' mystery buyer has been revealed, and he is in a position to be a well-placed suitor.

Joe C. Lewis, a Bahamas-based, British-born billionaire, has purchased a near 7 percent stake in the company, it was revealed on Monday.

The Times today reported on recent speculation surrounding the identity of the mystery stakebuilder, following a series of statements from Citigroup saying that it was holding shares as "contracts for difference" on behalf of one of its clients.

The paper said that the investor had been quietly buying up shares in Ladbrokes for several months and that he raised his stake again last week, now thought to be worth about £300 million.

He is not believed to have any current plans to launch a bid for Ladbrokes. However, it is understood that a takeover is one of the options on the table.

Lewis was listed sixteenth in The Sunday Times Rich List 2007 and he was ranked 369 on the Forbes Billionaires List for 2007, with a net worth of $2.5 billion.

In 1999, Lewis brokered a deal in which ENIC, an international sports/entertainment group, and acquired a 25 percent stake in Victor Chandler's start-up online operation in Gibraltar for $7.845 million.

Lewis, who is involved with betting exchange Betdaq, has also been linked to stakebuilding at Rank Group.

Ladbrokes shares last week rose for two straight days on the LSE fuelling rumors of a private suitor on the scene. But shares dropped 1.50p today on the LSE to 326.

Ladbrokes could not be reached for comment.

The IGN staff continually troll the wires, foreign papers, corporate news alert services and other dark, dusty corners of the Web to bring you the very latest industry news.