Who does Daniel Levy answer to at Tottenham? Daniel Levy

Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis (right) - Who does Daniel Levy answer to at Tottenham? Daniel Levy

As former owner Joe Lewis fades into the background, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy (left) is taking “ultimate responsibility” for the club’s plight

In 22 years of hard bargaining at Tottenham Hotspur, paperwork signed last December ranks among Daniel Levy’s most astute moves.

Companies House records had been adjusted to show Joe Lewis no longer had club powers prior to being charged last week with insider trading.

Spurs, as a result, received prompt Premier League assurances that the club is safe, regardless of the New York case against the British billionaire. Lewis has denied the charges.

However, one major crisis averted also exposes an unanswerable question: if Lewis is not holding Levy to account at Tottenham, is anybody?

The 61-year-old is seen by some as unsackable as part-owner and chairman, with a small hand-picked board around him. Yet with such heavy involvement in day-to-day matters, he only has himself to blame for the club’s recent struggles. Soon after sacking Antonio Conte, Levy acknowledged “ultimately, the responsibility is mine”. Behind the scenes, Telegraph Sport understands, he and the board held a town hall meeting to reassure the club’s 700 staff of their long-term vision.

But after four years of fairly regular turmoil since defeat in the Champions League final, former key allies are losing faith that the system is working. “There’s real concern over the direction of the club,” said one former staffer claiming to have knowledge of the feeling among the rank and file. Another key associate added: “It’s become so difficult for staff. Anything where there’s money involved, Daniel wants to be involved. He is a brilliant, ruthless operator but he micromanages and it’s difficult for those below him to grow and show leadership.”

The club itself firmly rejects any suggestion of concerns internally over direction. Critics “clearly missed” the meeting, said one key source, adding that plans were made “crystal clear”.

However, as Ange Postecoglou leads another new era for the club, there are, as is the norm at Spurs, unwanted distractions. Harry Kane’s potential move to Bayern Munich is unresolved and a transfer is stalling for Hugo Lloris. Levy appears to have his hands full, with a new director of football yet to be appointed and some uncertainty over Scott Munn’s official start date as chief football officer.

The do-it-all chairman’s track-record as a tough negotiator has been cited as a potential issue in the Kane transfer situation, with Manchester United among clubs to rule out a bid for the England captain. “I know other English clubs don’t like dealing with Levy,” said one former colleague. “It’s not great for competitive tension that Bayern have a clear run at this.” That determination to pursue value at all costs once served Levy well, but it also drew criticism this summer from Jose Mourinho, who claimed “Mr Levy didn’t let me win a final or win a trophy”.

Supporters of Levy believe his critics should be careful what they wish for, saying he remains “addicted” to making Spurs a success. He has secured European football in the majority of his years, made the club’s finances self-sufficient and his obsessive approach to detail was praised in the award-winning stadium project. “I stopped travelling with him because he just never sleeps,” Christopher Lee, the managing director of Populous and the architect of the ground, has said previously. “I’m sure he sleeps two or three hours a night.”

“Daniel operates with the best interests of the club at heart,” add sources still working at the club. “He has to negotiate good deals as the club is run on profit and loss rules within FFP (financial fair play). Why is that something to criticise?”

Written off at comprehensive school, Levy buckled down

Levy, a father of four, accepts he is demanding too, saying his fear of “failure” helped forge his appetite to become one of football’s most fearsome operators. Being written off at his Essex comprehensive school, he said in a documentary screened on TNT Sports, was a “wake up call to me”. “I wasn’t necessarily particularly bright but I was prepared to work hard, and from that moment on I buckled down.”

After achieving first-class honours at Cambridge, he worked in the private equity sector, where he formed a business association with Lewis. In the mid-1990s, he identified the Premier League as ripe for investment and he said he “accidentally” fell into Tottenham investment, having been a lifelong fan of the club.

Insiders say it is a common misconception, however, that Lewis, 86, ever had any serious involvement in footballing matters over the years since Levy finally persuaded Alan Sugar to sell up. Levy has always been the main decision-maker in his roles as part-owner, chairman and effectively chief executive, paying himself £3.265 million to make him one of the best-paid directors in world football.

“Joe very rarely got involved,” said one source close to the club. “There have been offers for the club in the past and Joe pushed them on to Daniel to have final say. It’s unthinkable he would get involved in player sales. He’s not a football person, he’s a money man.”

Over the next season, it is likely to be Vivienne Lewis Silverton, Lewis’s daughter, who will be the most active member of the family – beneficiaries of a discretionary trust that ultimately owns 70.12 per cent of the share capital of Enic Sports Inc. But there is no suggestion the Lewis family are planning to become more prominent.

“Hardly anyone ever saw Joe,” one source adds. “He was always quite pleasant. He was never arrogant or throwing his weight around or you thought to yourself, ‘This is a guy with all the money’.”

Although Levy also retains an aversion to publicity, he is described as more of a “thrill-seeker”, collecting fast cars and regularly going skiing. He also collects fine wine, an interest he shared with Mauricio Pochettino.

However, amid fears that his powers of deal-making are waning, there are conflicting claims over whether he is becoming increasingly close to letting his biggest passion project, Spurs, go.

Despite placing a £3.5 billion total price tag on the club when he was approached in September 2021, talks around a sale have yet to progress. Suitors have since included Qatar Sports Investments, who met Levy while weighing up a new minority stake at a Premier League club to add to its ownership at Paris St-Germain, and Iranian-American billionaire Jahm Najafi, who was expected to table a total buyout offer.

‌F1 owner Liberty Media has also been mooted by one insider as a potentially interested party, although the company has yet to respond to a request for comment from Telegraph Sport.

But several associates – in a version of events that is strongly disputed by club sources – suggest the reason for no progress in a club sale is Levy himself. One former employee adds: “The biggest sticking point with any takeover is the fact Daniel doesn’t just want to walk away.”

A second added: “You’re owner, chairman and CEO, he wants to keep one of those titles – he still wants to be the guy running it day to day. He’s obsessed with it. He doesn’t want to walk away until he sees something that resembles success on the pitch. But I just don’t see how they do it without changing regimes.”

‌Current club insiders insist the suggestion of Levy wanting to stay should a sale take place “is rubbish as this has never been discussed”. “Daniel has shown vision and delivered,” the source added of his approach. “Given he’s an owner, it’s perfectly acceptable that he’s heavily involved in things.”

Levy needs a sharp upturn in fortunes on the pitch to justify such a hands-on approach. Last season, Tottenham failed to qualify for European football for the first time since 2008-09 while charging more for a season ticket than any other Premier League team. While he may have won the biggest battle in safeguarding the club while former owner Lewis attempts to clear his name in a US court, murmurings of discontent in the seats of his world-class stadium will intensify quicker than ever if the Postecoglou era fails to go as planned.

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