NEW YORK (Nov. 5)
Media tycoon Robert Maxwell was found dead Tuesday night, when his body was recovered in the Atlantic Ocean, off Spain’s Canary Islands.
Maxwell, the flashy press baron whose passion was acquiring newspapers around the world, had been cruising on his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, following a round of business meetings.
His death followed allegations in the news media in recent weeks that he had ties to the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service.
Maxwell was party to a libel suit filed two weeks ago against American author Seymour Hersh, whose new book, “The Samson Option,” claims an editor of one of Maxwell’s papers spied for Israel and helped arrange the sale of Israeli arms to Iran and other countries.
The editor, Nicholas Davies, was fired last week as foreign editor of The Daily Mirror, a leading British tabloid, after photographs surfaced placing him in Ohio where, Hersh alleged, he had been on an arms-buying trip.
Hersh told British Television that he had more information about Maxwell.
Maxwell, a British subject, was a Czechoslovak Jew born Jan Lodvik Hoch in 1923 in a small village in Slovakia. During the war, he served in the French underground and British army, changing his name several times.
Maxwell’s mother died in Auschwitz. His father was arrested by the Germans and was never heard from again.
Maxwell himself was awarded a British medal for valor during World War II.
After the war, Maxwell founded Pergamon Press, a scientific publishing house. He went on to build a newspaper company listed among the world’s top 10 communications businesses. In 1984, he bought Mirror Group Newspapers, in Britain.
His Maxwell Communications Corp., which owns the U.S. publisher Macmillan and the Berlitz language schools, was reportedly heavily in debt.
PROMINENT IN JEWISH CAUSES
Earlier this year, Maxwell rescued the New York tabloid Daily News from certain death. In August, he gained total control of Ma’ariv, Israel’s second-largest circulation daily.
This past March, he launched a Russian-language paper in Israel, Vremya.
Maxwell was prominent in many Jewish causes. He was honorary president of State of Israel Bonds Organization for the United Kingdom and was seen frequently at dinners for various Jewish groups.
He had been scheduled to address the Anglo-Israel Association in London on Monday. But the group’s organizers were told a half hour before the event that he had been taken ill.
However, Rabbi Faivish Vogel, director of Lubavitch in Britain, spoke with Maxwell on Monday by telephone. Maxwell “sounded as direct and robust and healthy as in any of the conversations I’ve had with him,” Vogel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Although he was a member of the Labor Party in Britain and once served as a Labor member of Parliament, he formed close ties to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Likud.
(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)