DEATH OF A TYCOON by Nicholas Davies


An Insider's Account of the Fall of Robert Maxwell
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 Intermittently absorbing testimony to the idiosyncratic--and autocratic--management style of the British media baron who was discredited as a swindler after his mysterious death in late 1991, coupled with an apologia that doth protest more than a bit too much. Davies (White Lies, 1991) was foreign editor of London's Daily Mirror when, in 1984, Robert Maxwell gained ownership of the tabloid newspaper and made him a confidant. A constant companion on ``Cap'n Bob'' 's globe-trotting forays, Davies provides tellingly detailed accounts of his boss's boorishly eccentric behavior in venues ranging from Communist chancellories to Tokyo. While the author doesn't claim to have realized that Maxwell was looting the pension funds of publicly traded and privately held enterprises under his control, he leaves little doubt that grandiose ambitions helped drive the financier to the shady side of the street. Davies also adds to the posthumous charges against Maxwell with such plausible if speculative allegations as that his employer laundered money for the KGB through Liechtenstein trusts. He further argues that Maxwell ran afoul of America's Mafia as a result of attempting to cut distribution costs at N.Y.C.'s Daily News (his last takeover). Rather late in the game, Davies gets around to addressing charges leveled by Seymour Hersh in The Samson Option (1991) that he himself had been an arms dealer and that Maxwell was an agent of Israel's Mossad. Davies (who endorses the consensus view that Maxwell committed suicide rather than face exposure as a common crook) pooh-poohs the notion that his former boss was an intelligence operative, while copping what will strike many as an unpersuasive plea on his own behalf. Vivid, occasionally axe-grinding, vignettes that contribute a modicum of depth to the still incomplete portrait of an apparently world-class villain. (Photos--eight pp.--not seen)

Pub Date: May 20th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09249-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993