Robert Maxwell (Robert Maxwell)

Robert Maxwell

Jan Ludwig Hoch was born in Slatinske Doly, a village in the province of Ruthenia which was then in Czechoslovakia but which, after 1945, became part of the Ukraine. His parents, Mechel and Hannah, were Orthodox Jews. Mechel eked out a living as a cattle salesman, woodcutter and farm labourer. There were seven children in the family. When the Second World War broke out, Jan Ludwig joined the Czech Resistance and made his way to France and, in May 1940, to England, where he changed his name to Leslie Du Maurier and was admitted to the North Staffordshire Regiment. Later, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, transferred to the Fifth Battalion of the West Surrey Regiment, who were stationed near Brussels, and changed his name yet again, to Ian Robert Maxwell. On the 29th. January 1945, he was leading his platoon towards Paarlo when he captured a machine-gun post; for this, he was awarded the Military Cross, which was pinned on him by Lord Montgomery (q.v.) and was promoted to Captain. He then drove to Paris where, on the 14th. March, he married Elisabeth Meynard, a French Protestant girl. They were to have four sons and five daughters, although a son and a daughter died young. After the war, Maxwell went into business, selling scientific publications and, in 1949, founded Pergamon Press. In 1959, he stood for Parliament as the Labour candidate for Buckingham; he was defeated, but won the seat in 1964 and again in 1966, although he lost it in 1970 and failed to regain it in both elections of 1974. In 1971, however, the American entrepreneur Saul Steinberg, owner of Leasco Data Processing Corporation, had expressed an interest in buying a subsidiary of Pergamon Press which sold encyclopaedias. In order to inflate the share price and make it appear more profitable, Maxwell had used transactions between Pergamon and his private family companies. Steinberg discovered this and withdrew from the deal, and a Department of Trade investigation resulted in the famous pronouncement that : “Notwithstanding Mr. Maxwell’s acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied upon to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company.” Fortunately for Maxwell, the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to press charges, and he recovered from the scandal, hence his nickname, the Bouncing Czech. In June 1984, he bought Mirror Group Newspapers from Reed International for the sum of £113 million. Later in the decade, he purchased the U.S. publishing house of Macmillan, but this drove him further into debt. In 1991, he floated Mirror Group Newspapers in order to raise cash, because the rest of his empire was heading towards bankruptcy with debts of two billion pounds. On the 5th. November that year, Maxwell went missing off the Canary Islands from his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, which was named after one of his daughters. His body was found shortly afterwards and was buried on the Mount of Olives. A couple of days after that, it was discovered that, in order to keep his companies solvent and maintain the share price, he had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his employees’ pension funds. His sons, Kevin and Ian, went on trial for this but, in 1996, they were acquitted. (bio by: Iain MacFarlaine) Cause of death: Drowned


  • June, 10, 1923


  • November, 11, 1991

Cause of Death

  • Drowned


  • Mount of Olives Cemetery
  • Israel

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