The Secret Life of Robert Maxwell

By Phineas Upham

Robert Maxwell was once widely considered to be one of the richest men in the entire world. He was a publishing magnate who held onto a vast empire, until it all crumbled before his death.


Maxwell was born to a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, and his family suffered immensely during the holocaust. He lost much of his family to the gas chamber, but Maxwell himself had escaped years prior to that. He used his freedom to join the British army in 1940, and he was involved in the allied invasion of Normandy Beach that took place in 1944.

He’d become a Captain by the end of the war, and would take home a Military Cross for his bravery in combat. Upon his return he married Elisabeth Meynard and the two had a total of five children.

He began his publishing career in the 1980s with the acquisition of the British Printing and Communications Corporation. He established a presence in the mainstream press with some papers from Mirror Group publishing. He also developed a reputation for being uncompromising, which some people took to mean “arrogant.”

On the surface, Maxwell was fiercely defensive of his reputation and the driving force behind a number of popular newspapers. Along the way were a string of failed papers and projects that put his business in debt to the tune of billions. A staggering amount even by today’s standards. MacMillan publishing, for instance, was a $2.6 billion flop.

As a result, Maxwell died in debt after falling overboard from his yacht. Naturally, some continue to suspect his death was a suicide. Another interesting foot note regarding Maxwell’s death is that a former Mossad agent claimed he worked for the Israeli intelligence agency. Neither has been proven with certainty, but he was buried in Israel with an honorable funeral.

Phineas Upham is an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or Facebook page.