The ghost of Robert Maxwell is alive and well and altering Wikipedia

February 17th, 2011

Captain Bob is still up to his tricks, folks. His ghost is rewriting the first draft of history. Just look at his entry in Wikipedia. He is ‘alleged’ to have stolen money from the Daily Mirror pension fund.  Mr Justice Forbes criticised some aspects of the first Board of Trade Inquiry. No  mention of the second BoT inquiry or the Hartley Shawcross Takeover Panel. No mention of the fact that even his wife,  Betty Maxwell, in her book written after his death, admitted he was a crook.

Wikipedia says the share price of his company collapsed after his death. Implication that it was because the brilliant Maxwell was no longer at the helm.

No mention of the FACT that the share price collapsed on the second day because there was no money left to repay the huge loans to the bankers. And worse there was no money to repay the £500 million borrowed from the Daily Mirror pension fund.

Then the conspiracy theories. Was he pushed off his yacht by the one of the secret services?

Reading this you would never realise that there is absolutely no doubt that Maxwell was one of the biggest swindlers in British financial history.

And sadly no mention of the facts uncovered over the years by a few journalists. We were not a conspiracy.

I was first on the trail, driven by curiosity. When I first met him in 1964, I thought he was brilliant and was writing what I expected to be a profile of new star of publishing. I followed him for about seven years, then went into teaching.

Before that I wrote my first really big story on him in 1966, when I was working for a weekly, called The Statist, I had been doing some quiet digging and realised I was dealing with an unusual and possibly dangerous. So I rang my deputy on The Statist, who had moved to the Sunday Times, who I was the only man I knew, who I could trust to join with me on this story.

We ventured out together, one Saturday afternoon to face the Captain in his lair, in the by far the biggest council house, near Oxford Town.

The result was a long profile by me in The Statist on the Friday. And a shorter crisp story by story by Oliver, which, contained some rather interesting facts, which even Maxwell had great difficulty in explaining.

Shortly after that the story was picked up in a big way by Godfrey Hodgson and Bruce Page of the Sunday Times Insight team with a team of forty scouring the globe.

Between us, we did a pretty good job. But it the reason he fell so heavily in 1967, was that he had run out of tricks, to disguise the emptiness in his house of cards.

We all thought that after the devastating report of the BoT enquiry he would never again be trusted with a public company.

But in a few years he was the boss of an even bigger empire.  In those years the only journalist following him was Tom Bower, an ex-BBC man who first met Maxwell when he was doing a Panorama profile. In the final phase Andreas Whittam Smith and Jeremy Warner at The Independent joined in. And in the final weeks just before his death a young woman from The Financial Times joined in. (probably Bronwen Maddox). She did some notable digging.

All of us were experienced business journalists. For another view of Maxwell turn to Stephen Bates, Guardian journalist, who has made his name mostly by writing about religion and the Royal Family.  There is a very funny and revealing story by him on  the gentlemanranters website. It is about the day he was sent in his first job, as a cub reporter on the Oxford Mail, to interview Maxwell.

The biggest omission on the Wikipedia web site, is a paragraph referring readers to the latest edition of Bower’s book, Maxwell: The Final Verdict. It tells the full story of Maxwell is can be bought from Amazon for peanuts.

Oh, gosh, horrible thought, perhaps the big man will be after me from the grave. Is their any lawyer out there who can tell me whether ghosts can sue for libel!

Captain Bob is still up to his tricks, folks. His ghost is rewriting the first draft of history. Just look at his entry in Wikipedia. He is ‘alleged’ to have stolen money from the Daily Mirror pension fund.  Mr Justice Forbes criticised some aspects of the first Board of Trade Inquiry. No  mention of the second BoT inquiry or the Hartley Shawcross Takeover Panel. No mention of the fact that even his wife,  Betty Maxwell, in her book written after his death, admitted he was a crook.

Wikipedia says the share price of his company collapsed after his death. Implication that it was because the brilliant Maxwell was no longer at the helm.

No mention of the FACT that the share price collapsed on the second day because there was no money left to repay the huge loans to the bankers. And worse there was no money to repay the £500 million borrowed from the Daily Mirror pension fund.

Then the conspiracy theories. Was he pushed off his yacht by the one of the secret services?

Reading this you would never realise that there is absolutely no doubt that Maxwell was one of the biggest swindlers in British financial history.

And sadly no mention of the facts uncovered over the years by a few journalists. We were not a conspiracy.

I was first on the trail, driven by curiosity. When I first met him in 1964, I thought he was brilliant and was writing what I expected to be a profile of new star of publishing. I followed him for about seven years, then went into teaching. Godfrey Hodgson and Bruce Page of the Sunday Times Insight team joined in on that phase. And then went on to other things.

We all thought that after the devastating report of the BoT enquiry he would never again be trusted with a public company.

But in a few years he was the boss of an even bigger empire.  In those years the only journalist following him was Tom Bower, an ex-BBC man who first met Maxwell when he was doing a Panorama profile. In the final phase Andreas Whittam Smith and his men at The Independent joined in. And in the final weeks just before his death a young woman from The Financial Times joined in. (probably Bronwen Maddox). She did some notable digging.

All of us were experienced business journalists. For another view of Maxwell turn to Stephen Bates, Guardian journalist, who has made his name mostly by writing about religion and the Royal Family.  There is a very funny and revealing story by him on  the gentlemanranters website. It is about the day he was sent in his first job, as a cub reporter on the Oxford Mail, to interview Maxwell.

The biggest omission on the Wikipedia web site, is a paragraph referring readers to the latest edition of Bower’s book, Maxwell: The Final Verdict. It tells the full story of Maxwell is can be bought from Amazon for peanuts.

Oh, gosh, horrible thought, perhaps the big man will be after me from the grave. Is their any lawyer out there who can tell me whether ghosts can sue for libel!

Captain Bob is still up to his tricks, folks. His ghost is rewriting the first draft of history. Just look at his entry in Wikipedia. He is ‘alleged’ to have stolen money from the Daily Mirror pension fund.  Mr Justice Forbes criticised some aspects of the first Board of Trade Inquiry. No  mention of the second BoT inquiry or the Hartley Shawcross Takeover Panel. No mention of the fact that even his wife,  Betty Maxwell, in her book written after his death, admitted he was a crook.

Wikipedia says the share price of his company collapsed after his death. Implication that it was because the brilliant Maxwell was no longer at the helm.

No mention of the FACT that the share price collapsed on the second day because there was no money left to repay the huge loans to the bankers. And worse there was no money to repay the £500 million borrowed from the Daily Mirror pension fund.

Then the conspiracy theories. Was he pushed off his yacht by the one of the secret services?

Reading this you would never realise that there is absolutely no doubt that Maxwell was one of the biggest swindlers in British financial history.

And sadly no mention of the facts uncovered over the years by a few journalists. We were not a conspiracy.

I was first on the trail, driven by curiosity. When I first met him in 1964, I thought he was brilliant and was writing what I expected to be a profile of new star of publishing. I followed him for about seven years, then went into teaching. Godfrey Hodgson and Bruce Page of the Sunday Times Insight team joined in on that phase. And then went on to other things.

We all thought that after the devastating report of the BoT enquiry he would never again be trusted with a public company.

But in a few years he was the boss of an even bigger empire.  In those years the only journalist following him was Tom Bower, an ex-BBC man who first met Maxwell when he was doing a Panorama profile. In the final phase Andreas Whittam Smith and his men at The Independent joined in. And in the final weeks just before his death a young woman from The Financial Times joined in. (probably Bronwen Maddox). She did some notable digging.

All of us were experienced business journalists. For another view of Maxwell turn to Stephen Bates, Guardian journalist, who has made his name mostly by writing about religion and the Royal Family.  There is a very funny and revealing story by him on  the gentlemanranters website. It is about the day he was sent in his first job, as a cub reporter on the Oxford Mail, to interview Maxwell.

The biggest omission on the Wikipedia web site, is a paragraph referring readers to the latest edition of Bower’s book, Maxwell: The Final Verdict. It tells the full story of Maxwell is can be bought from Amazon for peanuts.

Oh, gosh, horrible thought, perhaps the big man will be after me from the grave. Is their any lawyer out there who can tell me whether ghosts can sue for libel!

5 Responses to “The ghost of Robert Maxwell is alive and well and altering Wikipedia”

  1. Godfrey Hodgson Says:

    I agree that the Wikipedia entry is absurdlly pro-Maxwell. I and a team of Sunday Times journalists worked very hard on the story for a year. We interviewed numerous people who had dealings with Maxwell, including many who had workjed for or with him. It is absolutely clear that his entire career was marked by brazen fraud. He was radically untruthful. He was also an appalling bully: to ask him, however politely, any question about his business was to expect threats, including death threats. He systematically used the British libel law to suppress comment. He inflicted ruthless punishment on many of those who dealt with him, ruined serious enterprises, stole hundreds of millions, and had an extraordinary capacity to deny documented facts and even what he himself had said. The Wikipedia entry reads as if it had been written by a family member. It is imperative that the real career of this most obnoxious man should be accurately recorded.

  2. Bob Jones Says:

    Bruce Page say:

    It is a pity that Robert Maxwell is being forgotten. The real Maxwell that is. Apparently a memory is being created of jolly, larger-than-life bounder who was after all not so bad.

    The real man was both very nasty, and very dangerous. He laid in the 1960s the first elements of the corruption-trail which widened during the 1970s and 1980s into a superhighway, and is now trafficked with a recklessness which might not impossibly ruin our economy. What Maxwell proved in the last quarter of the last century was that nobody really had to say sorry for financial delinquency.

    When my colleagues and I investigated his crazy enterprises in the early 70s, it was perfectly possible to get serious help from accountants, auditors and financial practitioners who were genuinely appalled at the robberies we uncovered – indeed, would take part in uncovering them, quite often without payment.

    Don’t look for that among present-day Master of the Universe and their followers. I recall one passage in the post-Pergamon resurrection of Maxwell, when one of his many eminent connections introduced him to an outwardly respectable investment bank. We turned him down, one of its directors told me, reflecting on Cap’n Bob’s undismayed progress. ‘We thought how was a small-time crook. Wrong. weren’t we?’

    Bruce Page

  3. Bob Jones Says:

    You are so right, right, Bruce.

    In 1971, I ran jointly with the Professor of Accounting, The Pergamon Project, to teach managers enough about accounting to distinguish the goodies from the baddies. Tony had done a quite brilliant job of sifting down sufficient of the reports of the two accounting firms, who had asked to investigate the books of Maxwell’s accountant’s.

    My task was do exactly the same, by getting them to learn about how the stock market worked and how it can be manipulated.

    The managers were mesmerised, and worked really hard for a week to really understand.

    The exercise was so successful that in the third year I was able to bring the entire class of 40 or so down to London, so that Maxwell had a chance to give his side of the story, and the manager’s could spot the cracks in his arguments.

    They all fitted easily into his sitting room in Kensington. This totally discredited man, had recovered from the shock of the first BoT report. He leaned nonchalantly against the mantlepiece, not a care in the world. With a smile even bigger and wider than 1960s (Literally. His face was wider. Of course he happy to weloome his old friend, Bob Jones, because he was such a fair-minded journalist, and he felt sure that by now he would have realised the many mistakes, he, and a few other journalists, accountants, and BoT inspectors.

    Now bring your drinks over, and sit down while I explain..

  4. Bob Jones Says:

    Sequel to above.

    Over drinks back at the hotel round went around asking what they thought. I did not talk to quite every one, but all said he was quite the most brilliant man they had ever met.

    Sequel 2. Three years later. My dear friend and colleague, Tony,moved to Oxford, to take a job on the Maxwell payroll. Now Tony was a honest man, but Maxwell had convinced him that black was white.

  5. David Glendinning Says:

    The goings on of Rupert Murdoch jogged the memory of Robert Maxwell. When I read the wikipedia profile all I wanted to do was to question the quote from Betty Maxwell’s book quoting Justice Forbes as referring to “national” justice rather than as I suspect “natural” justice that I ended up here.
    I must say as a complete outsider I did not find the article particularly pro Maxwell. As far as I was aware the was no doubt that he was a crook.

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