“Beano” Nick Levene gets an unlucky 13 year stretch for operating the uk equivalent of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme

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The infamous Mr Nick Levene

In yet another salutary lesson of the dangers of leverage when mixed with greed and hubris, news that Mr Levene aka “Beano” is to be sent down for 13 years will no doubt delight many of those people who he duped including the Gloag’s of Stagecoach fame.

Levene was the very embodiment of the flash City trader – a supposed “self-made millionaire” who rode the wave of the 1980s big bang to become a financial player famed for throwing lavish parties attended by celebrities and leading business figures including Sir Philip Green and Richard Caring.

But Nicholas Levene’s story was ended at Southwark crown court yesterday when he was sentenced to an unlucky 13 years in jail on Mondayfor swindling investors out of more than £32m.

He spent his last free night before being taken to jail speaking to the FT and making some cracking quotes: –

I think the City is as much to blame for what happened as I am. Actually, that’s not right. I am completely to blame for my situation, but the City tught me a lot of bad habits.”

During 13 years as a trader at Phillips & Drew he started to develop a gambling habit, revealing that he would attend lunches with other traders that descended into heavy betting over cheese and fruit – true! “People would be making a market on how many grapes were in the bowl. Thousands of pounds would be laid out.”

He later worked at a succession of small brokers and eventually started making big personal spread bets with his own money. At around the same time friends started asking him to invest sums as large as £3m on their behalf. These friends included Stagecoach founder Brian Souter and Ivy owner Richard Caring. Sir Brian and his sister Ann Gloag eventually lost £5m each and Mr Caring was conned out of £10m.

“I didn’t love the money,” said Mr Levene. “I know people think that is what it is all about. But I was greedy to be in action; whether I was winning or losing. I was just obsessed with always having a position. That is a very, very bad place to be in.”

“I do feel remorse. I have gone through massive lows of shame and guilt and I wish I could morally put right what I have done,” he said. “Would I go back to the City? I doubt it. It’s going to be a very different place by the time I get out.”

In an ironic manner, some of the comments he made above actually ring very true – the City does attract a certain sort, leverage and greed combined ALWAYS results in disaster and finally, contrition is generally very rare in this game – just ask David Pummell, Simon Fox, Cyril Theret, Fred Goodwin et al!!

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