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Billionaire Lewis Hopes to Protect Bear Stearns Stake

British billionaire Joseph Lewis plans to take action to protect the value of his 8.4 percent stake in Bear Stearns, which is being acquired in an emergency deal with JPMorgan Chase, according to regulatory filing Wednesday.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday, Lewis reported holding 12.1 million shares of the New York-based investment bank. He holds the stake through Aquarian Investments, Cambria Inc., Nivon Inc. and other entities.

Nivon bought more than 500,000 Bear Stearns shares on March 13 for $55.13 apiece, just days before Bear Stearns agreed to be acquired for $2 per share.

Lewis said the shareholder group will take "whatever action that they deem necessary and appropriate to protect the value of their investment in the shares," including encouraging Bear Stearns and third parties to consider an alternative transaction.

Bear Stearns was forced to accept the deal after risky bets on securities tied to subprime mortgages pushed the bank to the brink of collapse.

Lewis, a magnate who controls more than 170 companies, first reported taking a 7 percent Bear Stearns stake in September. The investment made him one of the company's largest shareholders.

Shares of Bear Stearns rose 4 percent to $5.47 after the bell on Wednesday after investor Lewis said he may attempt to encourage the firm to consider other alternatives.


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