“Ghislaine, Is That You?”: Inside Ghislaine Maxwell’s Life on the Lam

I did not know this: Ghislaine Maxwell is the daughter of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell, briefly famous as a rival to Rupert Murdoch. Robert Maxwell’s body was found floating near his yacht in 1991.

Maybe his death was an accident. Maybe it was suicide. Maybe he was murdered to cover up … something.

The yacht was named the Lady Ghislaine, for his daughter.

The elder Maxwell and Richard Epstein had a lot in common. They were both parvenus who bought their way into high society and respectability, and who fell to disgrace.

Ghislaine Maxwell idolized both men.

Mark Seal reports at Vanity Fair:

To Ghislaine, her mother, three brothers, and three sisters, Robert Maxwell was Samson, tearing down the gates of Gaza, as he was depicted in a stained-glass window in their 51-room Oxford mansion: a titan of luck, impossible achievement, and unlimited wealth. “If Bob Maxwell didn’t exist, no one could invent him,” Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock would say. Born Jan Ludvik Hoch into a Hasidic family in a tiny village in Czechoslovakia, he was so poor that he and his six siblings had to wear shoes in shifts. He evolved into a warrior, surviving the Holocaust, in which 300 of his immediate and extended family members perished, to join the Czech resistance. When his country fell to the Nazis, he fled to France and joined the British Army, fighting in bloody battles from Normandy to Germany. After the war, he married the daughter of a prosperous British silk merchant, christened himself Robert Maxwell, and bought Pergamon Press, a publisher of scientific journals. It became the anchor of an empire that would, at the time of his death, include hundreds of companies, among them the publishing giant Macmillan and newspapers from The Mirror in London to the New York Daily News. As big as or maybe even big-ger than his rival, Rupert Murdoch, Maxwell was a bombastic, demanding patriarch who dined with kings and presidents and exhibited a bottomless appetite for family, food, fortune, and fame.

Now he was dead, and it wasn’t long before the mighty house of Maxwell was exposed as a house of cards. Maxwell, it turned out, had pledged millions from his company’s pension funds to shore up his tottering empire, exposing his 32,000 employees to retirement ruin and racking up debts of nearly $5 billion. The conspiracy theories multiplied: He committed suicide rather than face his financial crimes; he died aboard his yacht while engaged in sex with a mistress; he fell overboard during his regular postmidnight piss over the railings; he was murdered by British security agents panicked that he had taken possession of tapes that could incriminate the MI6 intelligence service in crime and espionage; he was injected with a poisonous syringe by frogmen sent by his Mossad spymasters to silence him from revealing their secret arms deals.

Mitch Wagner @MitchWagner