Robert Maxwell: who was newspaper magnate and ex-Labour MP, what happened to him at sea and how did he die?

Robert Maxwell at a party on his yacht with daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth, 1990. (Credit: Getty Images) Robert Maxwell at a party on his yacht with daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth, 1990. (Credit: Getty Images)
Robert Maxwell at a party on his yacht with daughter Ghislaine and wife Elisabeth, 1990. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images
Newspaper magnate and former Labour MP, Robert Maxwell, was found dead at sea over 30 years ago

Robert Maxwell’s body was found at sea and lots of conspiracy theories still surround his death, over 30 years later.

The media tycoon lived a luxury lifestyle, with helicopters and yachts, before his death revealed his fraudulent ways.

Find out more about Robert Maxwell’s life and death here.

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Who was Robert Maxwell?

Robert Maxwell was born in a part of Czechoslovakia which is now known as Solotvyno in Ukraine.

Maxwell, who escaped from Nazi occupation, served in both the Czechoslovak Army and the British Army.

In 1945, Maxwell and Elisabeth Meynard got married.

The couple had nine children; Michael, Philip, Ann, Christine, Isabel, Karine, Ian, Kevin and Ghislaine.

Karine died at age three of leukaemia and Michael never regained consciousness after a car crash in 1961.

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Whilst Christine, Isabel, Ian, Kevin and Ghislaine were later employed within his companies.

Maxwell built an extensive publishing empire, after buying the British Printing Corporation, Mirror Group Newspapers and Macmillan Publishers, among other publishing companies.

He also worked as a Member of Parliament (MP) for the Labour party for six years during the 1960s.

The Mirror Group Newspapers cost him £113 million in July 1984. It was the publisher of six British newspapers, including the Daily Mirror.

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This started his media war with Rupert Murdoch, who owned the the News of the World and The Sun.

The media tycoon rose from poverty to lead a luxury lifestyle in Headington Hill Hall in Oxford.

He also owned a helicopter and a luxury yacht, called the Lady Ghislaine.

What happened to Robert Maxwell’s empire?

In 1989, Maxwell had to sell some successful businesses, including Pergamon Press, to cover his debts.

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After his death, he was seen as a fraudster after his companies’ finances revealed that he had taken up to £460 million from The Mirror’s pension fund to put into his debt-ridden business empire.

This changed the views of colleagues who once admired him, as his disloyalty left many workers in poverty and left his newspapers on the verge of collapse.

His sons briefly attempted to keep his publishing empire together, but failed as one of them had stolen hundreds of millions of pounds from his own companies’ pension funds.

The Maxwell companies applied for bankruptcy protection in 1992.

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How did Robert Maxwell die?

In the winter of 1991, Robert Maxwell had been on his yacht - the Lady Ghislaine - in the Canary Islands.

On 4 November that year, Maxwell was reported missing by the crew on his yacht.

A day later his naked body was found in the Atlantic Ocean.

It was believed that the 68-year-old could have accidentally fallen overboard during the night.

However, an autopsy revealed that the former Labour MP had a “graze” on his left shoulder - which led three pathologists to disagree on the exact cause of death.

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A month after his death, an inquest ruled that the official cause of death was a heart attack and accidental drowning.

Despite this, his death sparked a number of conspiracy theories - had the crook been murdered or did he perhaps take his own life?

Maxwell is buried in Old Jerusalem, Israel. His grave lies in The Jewish Cemetery on the Mount of Olives.

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