A death in the Atlantic, a media empire that once had $4 billion in debt, and a yacht named Lady Ghislaine: Take a look at Ghislaine Maxwell's family history

Staff/Mirrorpix/Getty ImagesRobert Maxwell and his daughter, Ghislaine, watch an Oxford-versus-Brighton football match, October 13, 1984.

Ghislaine Maxwell has become a topic of public scrutiny for her relationship with former financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was arrested on charges of sex trafficking in July.

Epstein was found dead after an apparent suicide August 10. At the time of his death, he’d been awaiting trial in a New York jail.

Maxwell, a British socialite, is alleged to have acted as Epstein’s madam. Maxwell has denied these allegations.

Read more: Elon Musk was photographed next to Epstein’s alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, at an Oscars after-party in 2014

But Maxwell’s family has plenty of scandals of its own, dating from the 1990s. Keep reading to learn more about the Maxwell family.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help.The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.


Robert Maxwell was the first mysterious businessman in Ghislaine Maxwell’s life.

AP PhotoAn undated photo of British newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell.

Ghislaine Maxwell, 57, is the youngest child of the late media mogul Robert Maxwell’s nine children. According to a 2011 report from The Telegraph, she was his favourite. All Maxwell’s children were born in France, according to the Daily Beast.

Robert Maxwell was born Ján Ludvík Hoch in 1923 in Czechoslovakia, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Despite losing most of his family in the Holocaust, Maxwell escaped to the United Kingdom during World War II, changed his name to Ian Robert Maxwell, and became an officer in the British Army.

After the war, Maxwell entered the publishing business by selling academic papers, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.


“Ghislaine’s father Robert Maxwell was one of the darkest and most mysterious men to appear in British public life,” the Daily Beast wrote.

AP Photo/Gill AllenA printer at the Mirror Group Newspapers plant in London checks the first edition of the Daily Mirror, November 5, 1991. Robert Maxwell is on the cover.

In July, the Daily Beast described Maxwell as a “charismatic businessman” who was surrounded by an air of mystery.

In 1984, Maxwell purchasedMirror Group Newspapers, the publisher of six British newspapers, including the Daily Mirror.

According to the LA Times, Maxwell went on to expand his empire to include the New York Daily News, the publishing house Macmillan Inc., and the now defunct paper The European.

But the expansions caused financial troubles for the company. It was later discovered that Maxwell stole money from his other companies and employee pension funds to cover the newspapers’ debts, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.


Robert Maxwell considered Rupert Murdoch his rival, according to the Daily Beast.

AP Photo

Maxwell tried to create a media empire that would rival Rupert Murdoch’s, the Daily Beast reported.

The two newspaper publishers posted opposing bids for British tabloid News of the World in 1969, according to the Daily Beast. Murdoch’s bid was selected. Maxwell also lost a bidding war for The Sun to Murdoch in 1969.

Read more: What Rupert Murdoch’s life is really like: How the mogul grew his media empire and $US7.35 billion fortune, weathered scandal, and became engrained in international politics


Various reports indicate that Robert Maxwell did not shy away from questionable business practices.

Dominique Mollard/AP ImagesGhislaine Maxwell, daughter of late British publisher Robert Maxwell, reads a statement in Spanish in which she expressed her family’s gratitude to the Spanish authorities, aboard the ‘Lady Ghislaine’ in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on Nov. 7, 1991.

Maxwell had the Daily Mirror’s offices bugged so that he could hear what the company’s executives were saying about him, according to the Daily Beast.

Maxwell engineered contests for Daily Mirror readers designed to prevent anyone from winning, according to the BBC. In one contest, any reader who could locate a football in an image printed by the paper was promised £1 million.

“He took aside the promotions manager and myself and he said, ‘Between you, I want you to make sure no one can win £1 million,'” former Mirror editor Roy Greenslade told the BBC.


In November 1991, Robert Maxwell was found dead in the Atlantic Ocean.

AP Photo/Dominique MollardUnidentified crew members on the deck of the Lady Ghislaine, in Santa Cruz, Canary Islands, November 7, 1991.

Robert Maxwell had been sailing off the coast of the Canary Islands aboard his 180-foot luxury yacht named after his daughter, Lady Ghislaine, according to the AP. Maxwell was missing from the yacht for 14 hours before his naked body was discovered.

Maxwell was set to meet with representatives of the Bank of England over his company’s unpaid debts the day after his disappearance, his sons told the Sunday Times, 27 years after his father’s death, according to The Guardian.

The media mogul was 68 at the time of his death, according to the AP. Ghislaine was 30.


After an investigation, Robert Maxwell’s death was deemed to have been the result of natural causes.

AP Photo/Heribert ProepperGhislaine Maxwell, right, daughter of the late Robert Maxwell, looks on as the casket containing the body of Robert Maxwell is unloaded from a plane in Jerusalem, November 8, 1991. Maxwell’s body arrived on a private jet from the Canary Islands, a Spanish island group off the Moroccan coast, where the 68-year-old Jewish publisher’s body was found after disappearing from his yacht.

According to The Guardian, Maxwell’s death was officially ruled to have been caused by a heart attack combined with accidental drowning.

But Maxwell’s cause of death became the subject of many conspiracy theories, INSIDER reported. His death had been widely speculated by the public to be a suicide because it occurred during a period of financial turbulence for his company.

Years after his father’s death, one of Maxwell’s sons spoke out against the suicide theories.

“In 27 years I’ve never speculated: Was he killed or did he kill himself?” Maxwell’s son Ian told the Sunday Times, 27 years after his father’s death, according to The Guardian.

“If I say anything about it, I think it is highly unlikely that he would have taken his own life. It wasn’t in his makeup or mentality. I don’t think any murder conspiracy stands up, so for me, it is an unexplained accident, and I’m content to live with that.”

Maxwell’s companies owed more than $US4 billion to 43 different banks at the time of his death, according to the Daily Beast.

After her father’s death, Ghislaine Maxwell moved to the Manhattan’s Upper East Side and began working in real estate. According to a New York Post story from 2000, she was living off about $US100,000 a year from a trust fund her father had set up.


After her husband’s death, Ghislaine’s mother, Elisabeth Maxwell, became a Holocaust expert.

AP Photo/Mike AlbansElisabeth Maxwell, the wife of the late Robert Maxwell, stands next to a photo of her husband before a dinner honouring them sponsored by the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research in New York, November 24, 1991.

Maxwell devoted her life to Holocaust research after her husband’s death, earning a doctorate from Oxford at age 60, according to The New York Times.

Before Robert Maxwell’s death, she spent her time managing the couple’s 53-room mansion in Oxford, The Times reported. Less than a month after his death, Robert Maxwell’s financial crimes erased the family’s fortune, forcing her to move out of the mansion and into a borrowed apartment.

She died in 2013, according to The Times.


Two of Ghislaine’s brothers, Ian and Kevin Maxwell, were tried with financial crimes related to their father’s businesses in 1996.

AP Photo/Max NashKevin (right) and Ian Maxwell, sons of publishing magnate Robert Maxwell, leave the High Court in London, Thursday, September 19, 1996, where a judge ruled that Kevin Maxwell will not stand trial a second time on charges relating to the collapse of the disgraced tycoon’s media empire.

The brothers were later acquitted, according to the AP. Kevin Maxwell filed for bankruptcy in 1992, according to The Guardian.

Ian and Kevin Maxwell have been extremely private since the trial’s conclusion, HuffPost reported in 2018. The brothers now own a real estate and telecom businesses outside the UK. In 2018, they launched a think tank called Combating Jihadist Terrorism and Extremism, according to The Guardian.

Ian serves as CoJit’s director, according to the organisation’s website. CoJit did not return Business Insider’s request for comment.


The Maxwell siblings have been described as having kept low profiles in recent years.

AP Photo/John StillwellIan Maxwell and his wife, Laura, celebrate in London in 1996 after brothers Ian and Kevin Maxwell, along with American financial adviser Larry Trachtenberg, were acquitted on charges of defrauding pension funds.

In a 2011 report titled “Whatever happened to the Maxwells?”The Telegraph said that Robert Maxwell was “famously good at covering his tracks,” and that it’s “hardly surprising his family has grown so skilled over the past two decades at simply disappearing.”

Ghislaine’s other siblings include Anne, Christine, Isabel, and Philip Maxwell, according to The New York Times. Anne is a former actress who worked as a hypnotherapist in Surrey, The Telegraph reported in 2011. Christine launched an internet company. Phillip was said to be in London launching a career as a writer.

As of the 2011 Telegraph article, all of the siblings were reported to have a close relationship with one another.


Ghislaine Maxwell is alleged to have helped former financier Jeffrey Epstein run a sex-trafficking ring.

Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty ImagesMaxwell at a party at her New York City home on March 13, 2007.

Ghislaine was a close associate and former girlfriend of Epstein,Business Insider previously reported. An Oxford-educated socialite, she has been photographed alongside many powerful people, including President Donald Trump and Elon Musk.

Maxwell is now alleged of having helped him find underaged victims to use as sex slaves. She has denied these allegations.

Now that Epstein is dead, the investigation into him could refocus on her. But, as Business Insider’s Michelle Mark reported, her location has been hard to track down: Maxwell had reportedly not been seen in public for three years.

That changed August 15, when a photo shared to the New York Post showed Maxwell dining alone at an In-N-Out Burger in Los Angeles.

Read more: What to know about British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged madam who could become the new focus of his conspiracy case

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