The Maxwells, a Really Fucked up Power Hungry Family, now in Tatters ie yet again after the scandal when their father (Robert Maxwell) appropriated all the pension funds from his News Media and Printing Empire???

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The stranger-than-fiction history of the Maxwell madhouse

 31st December 2021


The seven siblings of the Maxwell family were reunited for the first time in years in June 2019 – Anne, Philip, Kevin, Ian, twins Isabel and Christine, and Ghislaine met in London on the day that would have been their father’s 96th birthday. Ghislaine disappeared shortly after, until she was arrested a year later.Ghislaine Maxwell has been jailed for supplying Jeffrey Epstein with underage girls© Provided by The Telegraph Ghislaine Maxwell has been jailed for supplying Jeffrey Epstein with underage girls

It’s testament to the apparently run-of-the-mill of this dysfunctional group that her vanishing was pretty much par for the course; the Maxwells’ web of incomprehensible connections makes a Dan Brown plot seem like an Enid Blyton short story.

Full disclosure: my first job in journalism was working for a trade magazine at Maxwell Business Communications. When Captain Bob went over the side in November 1991, the company went into receivership. As Christmas approached, our December salaries were paid into our accounts, then withdrawn an hour later. We faced the festive season with nothing in the bank. Many faced retirement with nothing in their pensions. Which may or may not qualify me to profile the craziest family in the world.

Although there were seven gathered that June, Robert Maxwell had nine children in total. His oldest son, Michael, died in a road accident in 1968 and his second-eldest daughter, Karine, died from leukaemia in 1957. The others faced an erratic and often brutal upbringing. Ian recently told a podcast that their father “brought us up to work hard and if you didn’t you were belted pretty well … The best way I could describe this would be in the form of a Chinese proverb which says: ‘Never be too far from the sun that you freeze, never be too close to it that you burn.’ It’s a narrow line, we had to run it.”

All but Ghislaine, the apple of her father’s eye, whose name graced the yacht he fell from and who acted as his meet-and-greet front woman – a role she seemed too happy to fulfil for Jeffrey Epstein, too. Despite this, the siblings rallied to her defence. Anne, 73, is the oldest survivor. She aspired to acting and worked in television before retraining as a Montessori teacher. Her father’s reaction was typically savage: “What have you and Pope John Paul II got in common? You’re both ugly and you’re both failed actors.” She married an osteopath and is now a cognitive behavioural therapist, apparently free from the whirlpool of destruction, although she is understood to have helped Ghislaine with courtroom strategy.Kevin, Christine, Isabel and Ian Maxwell have all been in court supporting their sister - Peter Foley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock© Provided by The Telegraph Kevin, Christine, Isabel and Ian Maxwell have all been in court supporting their sister – Peter Foley/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Philip, now a private tutor, also escaped the family as fast as he could. He won a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford, then met and married his Argentinian wife, Nilda – for which crime, Robert cut him off. The marriage failed, so he spent some time living in a London bedsit and reportedly planning to write a book about his father before entering the private tuition business.

Kevin, Ian and twins Isabel and Christine were gathered closer to their father’s business – Kevin and Ian bore the brunt of the public’s fury as it became apparent that their father had raided £460 million from the Mirror Group’s pension fund. They were arrested in dawn raids and faced four years of legal battles, culminating in an eight-month criminal trial. Ian’s first marriage broke up during the trial. Kevin and his now ex-wife Pandora had seven children before they, too, split up 10 years ago.

This split was hardly unforeseen. When Kevin signed on the dole, the papers called it a PR stunt, “but it was absolutely necessary that I did so, to qualify for legal aid,” he told Tatler in 2000. During the same interview, Pandora castigated his “inefficiency” as a father, saying she regularly told him: “If you’re not home by 10, I’m locking you out, and if you don’t agree to these terms, the next you’ll hear from me is through my solicitors.”

Pandora currently runs Pandorable, an up-cycling enterprise based in Jericho, Oxford, according to the website, which proudly states it was “created by Pandora Maxwell (hence the name) assisted by her daughter Chloe. We design and make products by repurposing textiles, using cashmere for our luxurious snoods that we call k’noodles.” Imagine …

The two brothers, on the other hand, have dabbled reasonably successfully in property, energy and telecoms. In 2019, for reasons that seem hard to fathom, they founded think tank Combating Jihadist Terrorism to tackle the problem of the radicalisation of British nationals. You can almost hear the Met Police breathe a sigh of relief now the Maxwells are on the case.Ghislaine Maxwell: read more© Provided by The Telegraph Ghislaine Maxwell: read more

Isabel Maxwell seemed set for rehabilitation in the late Nineties. After a brief career in British TV – the Oxford graduate with an MA in Law, History and French spent her father’s money on an adaptation of the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull and a documentary on lesbianism for ITV – she made her way to Hollywood and then to Silicon Valley where, with twin Christine, they built an early search engine called Magellan. The pair made the Sunday Times Rich List in 1999 after amassing £100 million in the dotcom boom.  

Christine had been a primary-school teacher but spent most of the Seventies and Eighties running the American West Coast office of the educational and scientific divisions of Pergamon Press, founded by her father. She was also involved in one of two of his software acquisitions. After his death the sisters fell out over the sale of Magellan.

Christine set up the software behind the data search technology used by FBI counterterrorism, while Isabel ended up president of Commtouch Software, an online security company founded by former Israeli soldiers. She claimed to have secured investment from Bill Gates, moved comfortably within Israel’s burgeoning tech scene and was connected with Epstein’s Mindshift conference – a TED Talk rival co-founded with Al Seckel.

As befits a suitor for arguably the strangest family in the world, Seckel socialised with the likes of Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, Elon Musk and Dudley Moore, and convinced many people that he was a cognitive neuroscientist with ties to Cal Tech. In fact, he was a top-notch charlatan who had failed to graduate from college – but he delighted in delivering TED Talks and publishing books on the science of visual illusions.

Seckel and Isabel sort-of married – it turned out he’d forgotten to divorce his former wife – and moved to the South of France. In July 2015, his body was apparently found at the bottom of a cliff, in a spooky echo of Maxwell senior’s fate, but doubts about his death persist. It coincided with an expose in the Tablet magazine revealing his dubious business dealings, fake academic credentials and double marriage. Journalists have failed to find any official record of Seckel’s death and author Mark Oppenheimer told a journalist: “I was never able to establish to my satisfaction that Seckel had died. I always had my suspicions that maybe he faked his own death; it would have been in character.”

Isabel declared herself bankrupt in the same year but has continued to float between the US, Israel and France. She’s been in court with Ghislaine since day one. The family have all promised to back their sister’s appeals – with Ian comparing the treatment of Ghislaine’s allies to “cancel culture”.

It’s hard to work out where this will take them all next. They’re running the FBI counterterrorism software, some have been bankrupt, they seem to think they can stop terrorism and an ex-partner is selling k’noodles online. If it wasn’t for the victims – from the Mirror employees on a cold December morning just over 31 years ago to the abuse victims only now seeing justice – it would be something close to hilarious. Instead, the whole thing feels too bleak to deserve the word tragedy. How can you find the tragic flaw when everything is such a mess?

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