March 23, 2013

Robert Maxwell as Lord Copper

The death of one of the Russian oligarchs in England, Boris Berezovsky, reminds me of the startling life and death of a similar personality, Robert Maxwell, who was a huge figure in the English-language media and marketing industries a quarter of a century ago. Since everybody knows that only conspiracy theorists believe in conspiracies, but since Maxwell's entire life was one conspiracy after another, his entertaining memory Does Not Compute and has largely been forgotten.

"The Bouncing Czech" had, apparently, been some kind of Soviet agent off and on, and the basis of his fortune was the Soviets giving him the copyright of all their scientific journals for publication in English.

Maxwell also seemed to be some kind of Israeli spy. Wikipedia explains:
Shortly before Maxwell's death, a former Mossad officer named Ari Ben-Menashe had approached a number of news organisations in Britain and the United States with the allegation that Maxwell and the Daily Mirror's foreign editor, Nick Davies, were both long-time agents for the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad. Ben-Menashe also claimed that in 1986 Maxwell had told the Israeli Embassy in London that Mordechai Vanunu had given information about Israel's nuclear capability to the Sunday Times, then to the Daily Mirror. Vanunu was subsequently lured from London to Rome by Mossad, where he was kidnapped and smuggled to Israel, convicted of treason and imprisoned for 18 years. 
No news organisation would publish Ben-Menashe's story at first but eventually the New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh repeated some of the allegations during a press conference in London held to publicise The Samson Option, Hersh's book about Israel's nuclear weapons. ...
The close proximity of his death to these allegations heightened interest in Maxwell's relationship with Israel, and the Daily Mirror published claims that he was assassinated by Mossad after he attempted to blackmail them.[22]
Maxwell was given a funeral in Israel better befitting a head of state than a publisher, as described by author Gordon Thomas: 
On 10 November 1991, Maxwell’s funeral took place on the Mount of Olives Har Zeitim in Jerusalem, across from the Temple Mount. It had all the trappings of a state occasion, attended by the country’s government and opposition leaders. No fewer than six serving and former heads of the Israeli intelligence community listened as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: "He has done more for Israel than can today be said" (Gideon's Spies: The Secret History of the Mossad, St. Martin's Press, 1999).[23]

Or, maybe Shamir was talking about something else. Who knows?

Back in 1994, I watched a C-SPAN Booknotes interview by Brian Lamb of Reagan speechwriter Peter Robinson promoting his book about his misadventures as a writer trying to fit into the business world after he left politics and got an MBA at Stanford. Lamb asked him about how he got personal job interviews with Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, and Robert Maxwell:
Robinson: And so Bill Buckley was a friend of Robert Maxwell, the British media baron, and Bill was kind enough to write a letter of introduction to Maxwell on my behalf. Actually, a business school classmate's father did business with Rupert Murdoch and was kind enough to write a letter to Rupert Murdoch on my behalf. And then a classmate was dating Steve Jobs and has since become Mrs. Steve Jobs ... 
Lamb: Who's Steve Jobs? 
Robinson: Steve Jobs -- that's right -- at his company ... 
Lamb: Who is he? 
Robinson: Who is Steve Jobs? Steve Jobs is the founder, in 1977, of Apple Computer Company. ... 

That was a classic Brian Lamb interview technique. My assumption is that Lamb assumed that viewers, even of C-SPAN, don't know anything about anything, so he asked all these Man-from-Mars questions that frequently rattled his subjects who were used to being interviewed by people who liked to show off how much they already knew, much to the bafflement of viewers. Lamb, instead, would ask the author of, say, a new Lincoln biography:

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author of new Lincoln biography [Baffled]: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author [Unnerved, but rallying]: "Well ... that's a very insightful question. I'm glad you asked that because that really gets to the heart of what my new biography of Lincoln is all about. We all think we know who Abraham Lincoln was, but do we fully grasp what it was to like to be Lincoln, to be a son of the prairie suddenly --"

Lamb: "Who was Abraham Lincoln?"

Author [Finally sort of catching on]: "He was the President. ... During the Civil War."

I was particularly interested in Robinson's meetings with Robert Maxwell, who jumped off his yacht not long afterwards, about a month before Maxwell's embezzlement of many hundreds of millions dollars of his employees' pension funds was uncovered. I like this long segment because I'd dealt with Maxwell's company, and because Robinson's story sounds so much like how William Boot is hired as a war correspondent by Lord Copper in Waugh's Scoop. (Presumably, Robinson had read Scoop too, and thus his story of his meeting with the press lord is refracted through his delight in literature coming to life.)
Robinson: I had an interview -- in fact, two interviews with Robert Maxwell ... I met him in New York, and he had a suite at the top of the Helmsley Palace Hotel, which was the biggest hotel suite I have ever seen. I buzzed at the door and a little man came, opened the door, in a suit. It was a butler, a real butler, and he bowed to me from the head and said, “Good afternoon, sir.” And then a huge voice from around -- “Ah, that would be Robinson. Show him in. Show him in.” And this gigantic man -- Maxwell must have weighed 300 pounds if he weighed an ounce -- came padding around the corner in khaki trousers and a checked shirt and bare feet. 
He motioned me in, and I was now in a room that was two stories high. A curving staircase went up to the right, and off to the left was a kind of two-story bank of windows looking out on the Manhattan skyline with a grand piano, and if Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had come high-stepping down those stairs, it wouldn't have seemed out of place to me at all. Maxwell was -- I had been warned that he was abrasive, he was difficult, he liked to humiliate people. He was, in fact, during that half-hour or so, absolutely charming, wanted to know all about me, where was I from, and we just chatted. ... At the end of the conversation, he said, “Well, I would not be averse to continuing this discussion. You must come to see us in London. See so-and-so and she will make the arrangements.” So ...

Robinson then explains why he changed the name of Maxwell's personal assistant to "Wilkes." (Poor Wilkes sounds like the forlorn and battered Mr. Salter, who works for newspaper baron Lord Copper of the Daily Beast, in Waugh's Scoop.)
Robinson: Robert Maxwell was a difficult enough man to deal with, and so I felt some sympathy for this fellow ["Wilkes"]. He was American and I was the one who was in need of a job, but he was trying very hard to sell me. He said, “Oh, Maxwell is -- he's a genius. This company is growing. What would you like to do here?” He just asked me what I would like to do. And then it was clear he kind of would give me any job I asked for, and it suddenly clicked that Maxwell must have told this person to hire me no matter what. 
As we were talking, the windows started to shake -- huge “whoop, whoop, whoop” sound -- and this fellow said to me, “Well, the helicopter's landing. He's here. We'll give him five minutes and go up and see the great man.” Waited five minutes; upstairs we went in the elevator. And there -- the anteroom or hallway outside Maxwell's office was this sort of cavernous place with a huge Maxwell logo, which was a map of the world with a gigantic M imprinted on it. And I noticed in the carpet -- this logo was repeated all through the carpet, stretching off into -- sort of into the distance. And the secretary said, “He's waiting for you.” So this fellow, Wilkes, as I call him in the book, opened the door. Just a gigantic room again -- tall windows looking out on the London skyline, Maxwell seated at a desk, and he stands up and he's wearing an electric blue suit, a hot pink bow tie, a bright blue shirt. He comes padding over to us. “Mr Robinson” -- shakes my hand -- “take a seat,” and he motions to a kind of conference table. 
... And his hair -- I'm sensitive to this. I'm getting gray myself now. His hair was absolutely jet black -- shoe-polish black -- as were his eyebrows. ... He was just a huge, bizarre, colorful figure. And my first impression was this kind of circus bear. 
And Maxwell turned to the fellow I had been dealing with and he said, “Well, what are we going to do with this young man?” And Wilkes said, “Well, Mr. Maxwell, Peter and I have been talking about his career” -- of course, not true. We hadn't been talking in any serious way at all. And he spins out this story about how I should start with the media group -- or the television group -- and after a year or two I could be running a chunk of the business on my own. I thought, this sounds remarkably good -- in fact, surreal. It can't be that good.
I was now 33 years old with not a whit of business experience. 
And Maxwell listens to this, and pauses for a moment and he says, “No. Wrong use to make of Robinson entirely.” Then he said that I would be his personal assistant. Maxwell said, “For example, this weekend I am flying to Moscow. Mr. Wilkes will accompany me. When Robinson joins the company, he will accompany me instead. He will sit in on the meetings, take notes -- notes on the negotiations -- return to the firm, and tell you and others what actions need to be taken as a result of the decisions I have reached.” This is almost exactly the way he talked. And this fellow turned ashen. Suddenly not only was I being brought into the company, I was, in effect, being made his superior. 
And [Wilkes] tried to object and Maxwell said, “No, no, no. Negotiate a starting date with Mr. Robinson and a salary. If he wants to join the firm, good, and if he doesn't,” waved his hand again. And just then the secretary walked in and said it was -- Ariel Sharon was on the line for Maxwell. So he got up and walked back to his desk and I heard him say, “Aric, how is the weather in Tel Aviv?” as we then went out of the office. Now he had flown me to London and he had spoken exactly five words to me: “Robinson, take a seat,” and then discussed me as though I was a kind of side of beef hanging in a shop window, and I decided that whole experience was just a little bit too bizarre. 
Oh, Mr. Wilkes -- we got out and down the hallway we went, and he kind of called me over to an alcove and he said, “You don't want this job. You don't want this job. Why don't you say it right now: ‘I don't want this job.’ Go ahead, say it.” 
Yes, he did. He said, “Maxwell is a madman.” I mean, he took back everything he had told me half an hour before. “Personal assistant -- he'll leave you on a runway in Moscow.” And I had subsequently found out stories -- someone was hired for a similar position by Maxwell, given a two-year contract, and Maxwell fired her the first day, gave her two years' salary, but said he didn't want to see her again. So he was just very mercurial. That was my experience with Robert Maxwell.
Lamb: By the way, the Maxwell estate turned out to be -- what? -- bankrupt? 
Robinson: I don't know that it's ever been decided clearly and for certain. What happened was that Maxwell -- it became clear that he was facing huge debts and it also began to become clear that he had effectively stolen about a billion dollars from his company's pension funds to pay off debts elsewhere in the corporate structure. And he retired to his huge yacht and one night -- it's still a little bit unclear, but it now seems as though he jumped into the ocean. He either fell into the sea or jumped into the sea, and that was the end of Robert Maxwell.

Robinson then had a job interview with Rupert Murdoch:
... And finally, I realized he'd offered me a job. I said, “Well, thank you very much.” He said, “I'd be tempted to make you my personal assistant,” and my heart sank. I thought, “Oh, no, back into the Maxwell problem.” “But,” he said, “I think that would be a disservice to you. I'd like you to come here and learn the company, and I'm hiring some young people to learn various aspects of the company, and in 10, 15 years they'll move up into management positions.” It all seemed very, very plausible to me. And then at the end he said, “By the way, I understand you've also talked to Robert Maxwell. Go to work for anybody else other than me if you want to, but don't go to work for Robert Maxwell. He chews people up and spits them out, and I've seen it again and again.” So that seemed to me the sanest alternative, and I went to work for Rupert Murdoch.

You'll notice that Rupert Murdoch, unlike Robert Maxwell, is still around.

Maxwell is about as forgotten as Armand Hammer, whose great-grandson Armie is now a movie star.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've always liked Brian Lamb's style. None of the fawning interviewer style BS. He conducts interviews like a real man. It's almost like an interrogation. No flattery or idle chit chat and small talk. I think he would also tersely ask those man from Mars questions as a kind of test - it was almost like he was challenging his guest to prove that they actually know what they're talking about.

Anonymous said...

Maxwell is about as forgotten as Armand Hammer, whose great-grandson Armie is now a movie star.

Marc Rich and Arnon Milchan, the Hollywood producer, would be additional examples:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnon_Milchan

Steve Sailer said...

Wow, I'd never heard of Arnon Milchan until now.

Interesting fellow.

Anonymous said...

As I read this, I thought you would mention the infamous Armand Hammer et grand-fils Armie. You did. Al Gore and Hammer had interesting connections.

A great Brian Lamb moment was his asking during a Churchill interview with Martin Gilbert, "What is buggery?" after Gilbert had mentioned the term.

Anonymous said...

Arnon Milchan is married to Amanda Coetzer. Impressive. Israeli-South African alliance still OK!

Anonymous said...

You're the best blogger on the business Steve.

Anonymous said...

"The death of one of the Russian oligarchs in England reminds me of the startling life and death of a similar personality, Robert Maxwell, "

go to wikipedia
type in name
click on early life

scots-irish origins confirmed
oy vey, the unbearable accuracy of stereotypes.

Ross said...

Robert Maxwell was a Labour MP in the 1960s, his most noted contribution then was making a speech supporting the USSR's invasion of the country of his birth- Czechoslovakia.

He was a piece of shit.

Anonymous said...

An odd fact about Robert Maxwell is that he produced that strange little animated cartoon 'Dodo the Kid From Outer Space' - all 1950s and 60s angular drawn weirdness that seemed dated even in 1975.
It used to pop up on ITV as filler once in a blue moon, disappear and reappear years later for some odd reason.

Rasputin said...

"Robert Maxwell was a Labour MP in the 1960s, his most noted contribution then was making a speech supporting the USSR's invasion of the country of his birth- Czechoslovakia."

Considering his ethnicity I find his lack of loyalty less than shocking.

Anonymous said...

His country of birth? He was a Jew, Israel was HIS country not Czechoslovakia, he didn't give a shit about it. I wonder how much Maxwell's success was due to his being a "genius" and how much was do his Jewish/Israeli/Communist connections.

Does England still consider him a great man? The English seem to be the most politically stupid people in the world. Even dumber than Yanks.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing how stupid some Gentiles are. There are two kinds of Jews (or dual citizens for that matter):

1) Jews who consider themselves Americans who are Jewish; and

2) Jews who consider themselves Jews who just for convenience sake live in America.

Anonymous said...

Maxwell is about as forgotten as Armand Hammer, whose great-grandson Armie is now a movie star.

MacHammer, together with another perennial iSteve favorite, Martin MacPeretz, was instrumental in sponsoring and molding and guiding the career of the progenitor of the Innert00bz himself.

I wonder what they thought when he sold Current TV to Al-Jazeera?

I guess you really can't trust those filthy back-stabbing blood-sucking schkotzim after all.

dearieme said...

Some of Cap'n Bob's stealing from one of his company's pension funds was done in a gloriously old-fashioned way. HE OPENED A SAFE AND PURLOINED SHARE CERTIFICATES.

Anyway, after he fell into the Atlantic and drowned he was known as Cap'n Bob, bob, bob.

Anonymous said...

Author [Finally sort of catching on]: "He was the President. ... During the Civil War."

@steve

I am afraid I have not caught on. What is it that you see in asking this kind of question about Lincoln?

2Degrees said...

I grew up in Oxford. His mansion now belongs to Brooke's University and I frequently met peole who either worked there or for his publishing company. He was notorious from day one as a violent thug with no regard for the law and was hated by those who dealt with him personally.

Someone in high places was protecting hom.

Anonymous said...

i used to pass by the armand hammer museum all the time on my way to in-n-out.


so i didnt forget!

SCW said...

It has always fascinated me how rich left-wingers so often turn out to be "bosses from Hell." Maxwell, with his embezzlement from his employees' pension funds, and his generally crass and capricious treatment of the people who worked for him, was a prime example. Perhaps leftists take the Marxist caricature of the capitalist exploiter as a model for their own behavior as employers.

Back in the 1980s, Maxwell bought a large printing/contract publishing firm in my state, Minnesota. He wowed our liberal DFL governor, Rudy Perpich ("Governor Goofy") by arranging for Mikhail Gorbachev to visit the state, and proposed to set up an international think tank, the "Maxwell-Gorbachev Institute" or some such thing, to be headquartered here. Of course it all came to naught.

Even as this was going on, his relations with his new employees in the state were turning rather sour. At the time, I ran a small printing business (in no way a competitor of his), and saw a couple of job applicants who were seeking jobs elsewhere, anywhere, in the industry, other than his company. I was surprised by their accounts of working conditions there. I also knew another Maxwell employee in a purely social context, and whenever the subject of his employer was brought up, he would just silently shake his head.

Most business owners with whom I am acquainted are both much farther to the right, and much more decent to their staffs, than Maxwell was. I am not sure whether enough correlation exists to frame a "law," but it seems quite often that just as strident feminists tend to be uglier than prettier women, so left-wingers tend to treat their employees worse than do right-wingers.

Anonymous said...

http://www.vdare.com/articles/trolling-or-transformation-cpac-matt-heimbach-scott-terry-and-the-end-of-conservatism-inc

Why the GOP is dead. It insults its core white base as 'trolls' and perpetuates this fantasy that 'Frederick Douglas Republicans' and hip hop Republicans' will come over to the GOP out of libertarian principles.

GOP's dreams are the 'hopeless dreams' of the killer's father in IN COLD BLOOD.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVDxfDNq2VU

So deluded, so phony, so sad, so pathetic.

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIegoQAayFs

The stupid GOP/American conservatism gave its home away to the hostile elite, gays, and 'minorities' but still thinks there's a home to go back to.

Whatever route the GOP takes, it doesn't matter because the home isn't there anymore. The issue is not the road to take since the home is already occupied by new owners and there's a sign outside saying 'trespassing honkeys will be shot as KKK'.

Anonymous said...

OT - Steve, check out the mugshot of Evan Spencer Ebel, the guy suspected of killing the Colorado prison chief. Despite apparently having a high profile lawyer as a father, you can't help but think this guy was born a criminal just by looking at his face. Sloping forehead, protruding ears, pronounced jaw, he has it all:

http://news.yahoo.com/man-killed-texas-called-suspect-colo-slaying-175729821.html

Maybe there really is a fine line, genetically, between being a lawyer and a career criminal. I say that only half-facetiously.

Anonymous said...

There's so much talk of the elite trying to elect a new people...

... but it wouldn't be happening if Americans hadn't already elected a new elite.

The new elite is merely trying to guard its own supremacist power by increasing diversity in order to play divide-and-rule among the masses of people who are not part of its tribe.

Anonymous said...

Eeeeeyuck.

http://www.wimp.com/bestcoin/

Is there a word to describe something like this? A genteel conceited kind of populist feel-good collective narcissism of kind-heartedness and smiley faces..

it's like looking at Ken Burns or watching forrest gump or getting reading advice from Oprah.

Ewwww.

Anonymous said...

The best Brian Lamb definitional query came when he was interviewing Martin Gilbert, author of a new Churchill biography:
Gilbert: … When Churchill was 20 and a young soldier, he was accused of buggery, and you know that's a terrible accusation. Well, he ended up prime minister for quite a long time.
Lamb: Why was he accused of buggery, and what it is?
Gilbert: You don't know what buggery is?
Lamb: Define it, please.
Gilbert [clearly flustered]: Oh, dear. Sorry, I thought the word would … buggery is what used to be called "an unnatural act of the Oscar Wilde type," … is how it was actually phrased in the euphemism of the British papers. You don't know what buggery is? It's a very nasty thing which men can do to each other.

Steve Sailer said...

"Eeeeeyuck."

Don't be an idiocrat. It's a bunch of Europeans playing the high point of European music.

eh said...

I can't find an SNL skit on Brian Lamb - did they ever do one?

Mr. Anon said...

""The Bouncing Czech" had, apparently, been some kind of Soviet agent off and on, and the basis of his fortune was the Soviets giving him the copyright of all their scientific journals for publication in English."

Presumably there was some quid for that quo. It amazes me how many rich men's fortunes are made by setting themselves up in a position to intercept streams of payment for a service, product, or commodity that they had nothing to do with producing. There is a word for such men. Parasites.

Anonymous said...

"Eeeeeyuck."

Don't be an idiocrat. It's a bunch of Europeans playing the high point of European music.


Agree with Steve. You have to have a black hole where your heart should be to not appreciate Ode to Joy. Maybe you'd like it better if they did Gangnam Style?

Anonymous said...

"Does England still consider him a great man?"

I think no to that.

"Someone in high places was protecting him."

Well, he was a Labour MP for six years. But the thing is, he's fallen off the media memory as if he never existed.

"And some there be, which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been"

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have a source for the allegation that Maxwell supported the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia? I cannot find it anywhere. Maxwell was a British combat war hero by the way. Montgomery himself decorated him for bravery - he won the military cross, his citation stating:

"The attack was in danger of losing momentum but this officer, showing powers of leadership of the highest order ... kept up the advance. This officer then led two of his sections across bullet-swept ground with great dash and determination.

" Showing no regard for his own safety, he led his section in the difficult job of clearing the enemy out of the buildings, inflicting many casualties and causing the remainder to withdraw."

Somehow I doubt all the various posters here could do so well as Maxwell - although they are brave criticizing a dead man. And all of these allegations seem to originate with Seymour Hersh, a scum bag if there ever was one. Maybe it takes one to know one, but I would like to know more - very interesting character.

Anonymous said...

Does England still consider him a great man? The English seem to be the most politically stupid people in the world. Even dumber than Yanks.

I'm old enough to remember that no, he was never regarded as a great man by the English. He was regarded more as somewhere between a crook and a buffoon. Once he was dead we all knew he was a crook.

I also recall a story about him touring the shop floor randomly firing print workers at the Daily Mirror (tabloid). A lackey would then go around quietly unfiring them again. Maxwell of course not having any idea who they were in the first place.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 3:33PM

"Does anyone have a source for the allegation that Maxwell supported the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia? "

I looked at Hansard (UK parliament record). It seems wrong to say Maxwell supported the invasion, but he does seem pretty weaselly on the subject:

"what can we do to help the Czech people? In my opinion, it must be as little as possible in the form of Government action....If people can think of nothing better to do, they should send a postcard to Mr. Brezhnev telling him how they abhor this ghastly act of oppression against this friendly country." etc.

-http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1968/aug/26/czechoslovakia

Anonymous said...

"Somehow I doubt all the various posters here could do so well as Maxwell ..."

And why is that? Since you don't seem to be an expert on the man, can you kindly inform of us as to the basis of your ability to provide such pre-judgements on people you know even less about?

And if Maxwell was a far better man than all of us, that makes him more dangerous and more worthy of careful examination. A lot of spy smoke around this guy. Betrayal by those who claim to be of us, be for us, and be the best of us is a greater betrayal than sell-out by a common drunk.

I don't know anything about this guy, but it seems there was more to the man than just a medal from Monty:

"Robert Maxwell, Israel's Superspy: The Life and Murder of a Media Mogul", Gordon Thomas, Martin Dillon, 2002

"The Assassination of Robert Maxwell: Israel's Superspy", Gordon Thomas, Martin Dillon, 2002.

The story of Jan Ludvik Hoch, aka Robert Maxwell, is interesting:


"As one of the few business men who liked to proclaim his socialism, Maxwell stood for the Labour Party in Buckinghamshire in 1964."

"The DTI report said: "We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell's acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company.""

Anonymous said...

I don't know anything about this guy, but it seems there was more to the man than just a medal from Monty:

"Robert Maxwell, Israel's Superspy: The Life and Murder of a Media Mogul", Gordon Thomas, Martin Dillon, 2002

"The Assassination of Robert Maxwell: Israel's Superspy", Gordon Thomas, Martin Dillon, 2002.


Gordon Thomas is not a particularly credible source.

Anonymous said...

"Gordon Thomas is not a particularly credible source."

Okay, I know nothing of him either. Is the wikipedia's section on Maxwell's Israeli connections valid as far as it goes?

There is a statement of fact attributed to Gordon Thomas, is it true?

"No fewer than six serving and former heads of the Israeli intelligence community listened as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized: "He has done more for Israel than can today be said".

The article insinuates (probably based on a reference to another book that may or may not be credible) that he was a hero in Israel because:

"... Maxwell's contacts with Czech anti-Stalinist Communist leaders in 1948 as crucial to the Czech decision to arm Israel in their War of Independence that year. Czech military assistance was both unique and crucial for the fledgling state as it battled for its existence. It was Maxwell's covert help in smuggling aircraft parts into Israel that led to the Jewish state having air supremacy during their 1948 War of Independence. Jewish leaders were also grateful for Maxwell's intervention and material help in securing the freedom and immigration between 1988–1991 of over one million Russian Jews through his friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev."

There seems little doubt about the importance of the
Czech arms connection to the foundation of the state of Israel, it sounds like without it the war in 48 might have been lost:

"The deliveries from Czechoslovakia proved important for the establishment of Israel."

Israel's first fighter squadrons were equipped with what seems to have been a Czech franken-Me-109, the Avia S-199. Apparently not the best fighter in the world, but it was there when needed.

dearieme said...

"I grew up in Oxford. His mansion now belongs to Brooke's University" - ah, it was the mansion he lived in but it actually belonged to the City Council - hence his boast that he lived in a council house. I suppose that Oxford City Council must have been Labour-controlled: how many of the councillors were KGB men I have no idea.

I once served on a committee in a university where it turned out that I was the only member who wanted us to reject his offer to fund a prize. I was appalled but not astonished.

Anonymous said...

I'm no conspiracy theorist, but does anyone know if Christopher Walken was on Maxwell's yacht...?

Whiskey said...

Murdoch and Maxwell are more alike than they seem. Both practiced crony capitalism, that is getting into bed, flattering, providing favorable portraits of powerful government officials who then showered them with regulatory goodies; particularly keeping competitors out; and in turn kept nasty secrets embarrassing to the power elite from coming to light.

To use just one example, News Corp is heavily leveraged. As was Maxwell. Murdoch was just better at keeping an eye on the balance sheet and cash flow to service his debt. Murdoch's kids on the other are guaranteed to bring the whole thing crashing down.

It is a bad idea to have ANY Maxwells or Murdochs around, you end up depending as a society on people being angels instead of corruptible men. Big companies are by threat of their bigness, a threat to liberty of all free men, and should be treated as such.

Anonymous said...

I remember reading an anecdote about Robert Maxwell printed in one of the British broadsheets after he died. For some reason it stuck in my mind.

It was right near the end of WWII and Captain Robert Maxwell was in charge of some British infantrymen. They were facing some pill boxes and bunkers occupied by German troops. The British troops opposite them, knowing the war was nearly over, were disinclined to attack the Germans. The German troops, perhaps sensing the same thing, also seemed disinclined to take proactive actions.

Captain Maxwell ordered the British troops to storm the bunkers. The British troops refused, telling Maxwell the war was nearly over. Very well said Maxwell, I'll do it myself. With a sten gun and some grenades he stormed the bunkers killing all the Germans inside.

When he returned to his British troops, they all refused to speak to him.

Maxwell wrote, or said to whoever it was that was interviewing him, "It was at the point I understood what it meant to be British".

Anonymous said...

"Did Boris Berezovsky Kill Himself? More Compelling, Did He Kill Forbes Editor Paul Klebnikov"

http://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2013/03/24/did-boris-berezovsky-kill-himself-more-compelling-did-he-kill-forbes-editor-paul-klebnikov/

Anonymous said...

"The Man Behind Putin"

http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/till-death-berezovsky-defends-backing-putin/

"Whatever his exaggerations or omissions, he played a significant role in Russia’s transition from Boris Yeltsin to Putin. What strikes me is that years later — and up until his death — he still thought it had been a brilliant idea.

Berezovsky claimed to have been the mastermind behind picking a man with no public face, a former K.G.B. agent, to succeed Yeltsin as the president of Russia. He also said it was his idea to manufacture an entire nonideological pseudo-political pseudo-movement to serve as the new president’s base of support. Berezovsky also had another brilliant idea, which to his regret Putin did not grasp: creating a fake two-party system, with Putin at the head of a socialist-democrat sort of party and Berezovsky leading a neoconservative one, or the other way around."

Hmmm....sound familiar?

David said...

Milchan was the producer ($8 million, I think) on Orson Welles's last theatrical feature in 1981-2, "The Big Brass Ring," about an aging homosexual in presidential politics. A bizarre script lauded by the catty Gore Vidal.

(The film fell through because Welles couldn't get an actor right for the part. Jack Nicholson said he needed more money. Other actors - including De Niro, I think - were regally rejected by Welles for being "too ethnic" for the role.)