Downfall of a Despot: The Twisted Life of the Original Maxwell Villain


The luxury yacht slowly traveled up the East River from Manhattan and docked at the Water Club on East 30th Street. It was more of an on-water block of flats than a yacht, four stories high, dwarfing the neighbors, and occupying eight instead of one bunk.

Its owner had named it after his favorite daughter on board – the Lady Ghislaine. Less than a year later, Robert Maxwell was dead, and the child was found in a very different dock in New York three decades later, convicted of sex trafficking.

Robert Maxwell had just bought the failed New York Daily News (the owners were so eager to get rid of the tabloid that they paid him $ 60 million to get rid of it), which was overstaffed and whose distribution was effectively controlled by the Mafia. Workers had been on strike for nearly five months, and while he was able to broker agreements to break off industrial action, it was practically a collapse.

A few days later, on March 13, 1991, at nine o’clock in the morning, a fleet of stretch limousines stopped next to a newspaper kiosk in their hats.

A crowd gathered, and reporters and snapper crowded as Maxwell announced, “The fact that I have chosen New York is a vote of confidence in this city.” A Miracle on 42nd Street ”before he set off and dragged the crowd up the street to the newspaper building.

Maxwell had adopted at least four names before choosing this one (he was born Jan Ludwig Hoch) and was now called “Bob the Max”. Ghislaine was to become his “envoy” in New York. It would prove fateful for both of them.

He would rob his banks and the £ 763 million Daily Mirror pension fund, in part to pay for the Big Apple madness, before falling or jumping off the same yacht in the Atlantic.

Ghislaine gave a press conference from one deck of Lady Ghislaine to the media who gathered down on the quay days after her father’s naked body was fished from the sea. She would have a relationship with pedophile Jefferey Epstein and become his wife to help source young girls before she is locked up as a sex offender.

A tyrant, flail and thief

Her father was a lad, a violent bully, a villain, a sociopath, a liar – before he became possibly the greatest thief of the 20th century. Or was it perhaps these qualities that initially gave him wealth?

Ghislaine was born on Christmas Day 1961 as one of nine Maxwell children. Three days later, the eldest, 15-year-old Michael, was in a car that crashed into a truck on a foggy Oxfordshire road. Seven years later he was in a coma until his death.

From the overlooked – “Mama, I exist,” explained the three-year-old Ghislaine, according to her mother’s memoirs – she became the celebrated, inundated with suffocating affection.

Robert had met his wife Elisabeth, called Betty, in Paris during the Second World War. Betty wrote in her book that her favorite daughter was “spoiled, the only one of my children I can really say that about”.

Robert Maxwell’s story could be gleaned from fiction. In fact, it is sometimes difficult to sift through the facts because the man is embellishing his past. It is true that he was born in Solotvyno, Czechoslovakia into a large and impoverished Jewish family who all lived in a bare-floor hut. He, too, was one of nine that he reproduced in his own family.

His mother and father, and most of his family, were murdered by the Nazis when they conquered the village and country during World War II. Robert had left at the age of 16 at the beginning of the war and joined the Czech Army in Exile, then the British Army. He met and married Betty, rose to captaincy, and won the Military Cross presented to him by General Bernard Montgomery the day after he learned his parents were dead.

But he was also a war criminal who shot dead Nazis and also mayor of a city that hosted others. He had a gift for languages. He originally spoke Yiddish, learned English, which came with a deep upper class accent, and also French and Russian, or, as he put it, nine languages ​​in all, or was it 10? It depended on who he was bragging about.

Maxwell’s house

After the war, he founded Pergamon Press, which collected scientific papers (the academics were more interested in seeing their names on a book than on a check) and marketed it, but also did business with the Soviet Union and with the defeated enemy Germany Springer press.

The company was based and the family lived in Oxford’s Headington Hill Hall, which Maxwell often referred to as “the best meetinghouse in the country”. He had rented the house and surrounding buildings from the council to renovate the mansion.

The then chairman of Pergamon, Sir Walter Coutts, later said of him: “Maxwell has the ability to sublimate anything that prevents him from getting what he wants. He’s so flexible that he’s like a grasshopper. There is no question of morality or conscience. Maxwell is number one and what Maxwell wants is most important and the hell with everything else. ”

His ambition, politics and cunning led him to become Labor MP for Buckingham in the 1964 general election – he had told Betty he would become Prime Minister – which he held until 1970.

However, that didn’t stop him from continuing his professional career. He bought the loss-making British printing and publishing company and turned it around by cutting costs and staff.

But it had always been his ambition to become a press mogul. In 1969 he tried to buy the News Of The World but lost after years of fighting the man who became his fierce rival, Rupert Murdoch. (When the editor of the New York Daily News was instructed by his boss to call Murdoch and tell him about the purchase, Murdoch burst out laughing and hung up.)

In 1975 he poured a crucial £ 120,000 into Glasgow’s Scottish Daily News, the Workers’ Cooperative, and when it got into financial trouble he made the workforce believe he was going to save the paper. He did not do it. All hands (including this one) went down.

In 1984 Maxwell Mirror Group bought Newspapers from Reed International for £ 113 million. After that, he was rarely out of the headlines. He tried to solve the problem of the famine in Ethiopia, he “saved” the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh (which were later declared insolvent), he patronized Neil Kinnock and other Labor politicians, he successfully sued Private Eye for doing so claimed he was trying to buy a title of nobility – although he probably tried – and he brought out Britain’s first 24-hour newspaper, the London Daily News, which he tried unsuccessfully with the Scottish Dail News, and it broke together within months.

He also bought two football clubs, Derby County and Oxford United, with a shitty Gishlaine by his side

Unsinkable self-confidence

AN amusing and typically bombastic side effect of the Edinburgh Games saga was when he introduced his Japanese “friend” Ryoichi Sasakawa to the media. He praised the businessman who pumped in far more money than Maxwell himself than a multi-million dollar philanthropist who “single-handedly funded the eradication of leprosy,” although it is still going on more than 30 years later.

Sasakawa, if possible, was probably even more of a deluded Fantastic than Maxwell. He told reporters in Edinburgh that he was 27 and would be 200 years old. He was then 87 years old and died nine years later, either at 96 or 36!

But Maxwell’s relentless thirst for power and influence, his utter lack of morality and conscience, and unsinkable belief in himself led him to rob the pension funds to keep the New Yorker Zeitung and his other acquisitions afloat, and to him, voluntarily or not to be found face down in the sea.

His favorite child’s lawyers are now trying to overturn the sex trafficking verdict and are applying for a new trial. And the Lady Ghislaine? She was sold in 2017 to Anna, the former wife of Maxwell’s archenemy Rupert Murdoch. Her name is now the dancing rabbit.


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