Maxwell, Robert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Maxwell, Robert

Robert Maxwell (Ian Robert Maxwell), 1923–91, British business executive, b. Czechoslovakia as Jan Ludwik Hoch. He grew up in a tight-knit Jewish community. After fleeing the Nazis in 1939, Maxwell fought with the British during World War II. In 1951, he purchased Pergamon Press, a publisher of textbooks and scientific journals. The company's success helped him win election to Parliament in 1964 as a Labour member. A 1969 financial scandal cost Maxwell control over Pergamon and his political career, but he went heavily into debt and repurchased Pergamon in 1974. In the 1980s, he borrowed additional funds to create a diversified media empire that came to include the Mirror Newspaper Group, the U.S. book publishing company Macmillan, the Official Airline Guides, Berlitz, and the New York Daily News.

After Maxwell drowned mysteriously while cruising off the Canary Islands, investigators discovered that he had misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars from his companies and their pension plans to finance his corporate expansion. Maxwell's companies were forced to file for bankruptcy protection in Great Britain and the United States in 1992. In 1995 Maxwell's sons Kevin and Ian and two former directors went on trial in one of Britain's largest fraud cases. The charges included misusing Maxwell group pension fund stocks to assist a faltering Maxwell company and risking pension fund shares to secure a loan for another Maxwell company. They were acquitted in 1996.

See T. Bower, Maxwell (1992); R. Greenslade, Maxwell (1992); and E. Maxwell (his widow), A Mind of My Own (1994).

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