August 29, 2019     The  business of scientific publishing  was made “startlingly profitable” by a British entrepreneur named Robert Maxwell, according to a brilliant, thorough analysis that ran in the Guardian two years ago. “With total global revenues of more than £19bn,” Stephen Buranyi reported, “it weighs in somewhere between the recording and the film industries in size, but it is far more profitable.”


Reviewing the Guardian exposé today, we are aware of another dubious achievement of Robert Maxwell’s: his daughter Ghislaine would become Jeffrey Epstein’s partner in crime.

Maxwell was born in Czechoslovakia. He died in 1991 after intentionally plunging, accidentally falling, or being pushed off his yacht, The Lady Ghislaine (which was named after his youngest daughter).  Ghislaine, the flesh-and-blood lady, then moved to New York City where she soon hooked up with Jeffrey Epstein. You don’t have to be a Freudian to wonder: did she see her father in the Brooklyn-born financier, or did she coach him to recreate dear old dad? Probably both.

The parallels between Maxwell’s  “apparent suicide” (he had stolen millions from a pension fund and was facing public humiliation and prison) and Epstein’s death in a Manhattan jail cell are obvious and eerie. And so are the similarities between Maxwell’s and Epstein’s courting  of  scientists and other standard operating procedures. As explained by Buranyi in the Guardian:

Scientific conferences tended to be drab, low-ceilinged affairs, but when Maxwell returned to the Geneva conference that year, he rented a house in nearby Collonge-Bellerive, a picturesque town on the lakeshore, where he entertained guests at parties with booze, cigars and sailboat trips. Scientists had never seen anything like him…

By 1959, Pergamon was publishing 40 journals; six years later it would publish 150. This put Maxwell well ahead of the competition. (In 1959, Pergamon’s rival, Elsevier, had just 10 English-language journals, and it would take the company another decade to reach 50.) By 1960, Maxwell had taken to being driven in a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, and moved his home and the Pergamon operation from London to the palatial Headington Hill Hall estate in Oxford…

Occasionally, Maxwell would call Noble to his house for a meeting. “Often there would be a party going on, a nice musical ensemble, there was no barrier between his work and personal life,” Noble says. Maxwell would then proceed to alternately browbeat and charm him into splitting the biannual journal into a monthly or bimonthly publication, which would lead to an attendant increase in subscription payments.

Maxwell doted on his relationships with famous scientists…

The following is from the great Seymour Hersh’s memoir, Reporter:

“I also walked into an inside account of how Robert Maxwell the prominent British publisher of the best selling tabloids Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror, worked through Nicholas Davies, his editor for foreign affairs, and the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency to ensnare and capture Mordechai Vanunu, a onetime worker in the is Israeli nuclear bomb program, whom Israel wasseeking to put on trial on charges of treason and espionage. Vanunu, an Arab citizen of Israel, had gone public in a competing British newspaper with extensive details about the Israeli bomb program.The expose created an international sensation and then disappeared. Maxwell, who was Jewish, was not a spy for Israel but someone who supported the country and was willing to do what he could for it. I had cited Davies as a sometimes arm dealer and a key figure in the seizure of Vanunu. The allegation lead to a tabloid frenzy of accusation and denial with the banner headline in the Daily Mirror screaming “FORGERY” in huge type about one of the documents I had, and its main competitor responding with an equally baldhead line, “YOU LIAR,” when my document proved to be real.

“The dispute generated even more headlines a few weeks after the Mirror Group sued me for libel when Maxwell was found dead —mysteriously dead— later in 1991 on his yacht in the waters off the Canary Islands. The Mirror Group’s suit against me was dismissed in 1995, and a libel suit I had filed, at the urging of Michael Nussbaum, my attorney, was settled the next year when the newspaper issued a very abject apology to me and also paid me substantial damages that, under the terms of the settlement, I was not allowed to specify, noted that the Mirror Group acknowledged that the allegations against me and Faber & Faber, my British publisher, “were completely without foundation and never to have been made.”

The New Yorker has published a piece by scandal specialist Ronan Farrow: “New documents show that the M.I.T. Media Lab was aware of Epstein’s status as a convicted sex offender, and that Epstein directed contributions to the lab far exceeding the amounts M.I.T. has publicly admitted.”

Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow has sent a letter to all alumni (potential donors), entitled “Report Regarding Jeffrey Epstein’s Connections to Harvard.” Here are two of the money shots:

“… As to Epstein’s appointment as a Visiting Fellow, the initial appointment occurred in 2005, before Epstein’s arrest. The Visiting Fellow designation is now, as it was in 2005, granted to an independent researcher registered with Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as a graduate research student. In 2005, the Chair of the Psychology Department, Dr. Stephen Kosslyn, recommended Epstein’s admission. Between 1998 and 2002, Epstein had donated $200,000 to support Dr. Kosslyn’s work. The Visiting Fellow application process does not inquire about possible conflicts of interest and the fact of Epstein’s donations was not disclosed in the paperwork submitted by Dr. Kosslyn in support of Epstein’s application. After reviewing these records, we conclude, and no one argues to the contrary, that Epstein lacked the academic qualifications Visiting Fellows typically possess and his application proposed a course of study Epstein was unqualified to pursue. Epstein’s application was, nevertheless, approved, having been supported by a department chair. Epstein paid the tuition and fees to be a Visiting Fellow and showed up for registration, but we understand he did very little to pursue his course of study. Nevertheless, he applied to be re-admitted for a second year, the 2006-2007 academic year, and was again admitted, but he withdrew from that appointment following his arrest and before the new academic year began.

“The third area of focus from our investigation was Epstein’s relationship with the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. As noted above, Epstein initially funded the program in 2003 with a gift of $6.5 million. Epstein maintained a relationship with the director of the PED, Professor Martin Nowak, over the next 15 years, including after Epstein’s release from prison. While we have not been able to determine the precise number of campus visits, we understand that Epstein visited the offices of PED in Harvard Square more than 40 times between 2010 and 2018. We did not find evidence that Epstein engaged with undergraduate students during these visits (or during his time as a Visiting Fellow). Instead, Epstein used these visits principally as opportunities to speak with prominent faculty from the Cambridge area, many of them Harvard faculty. While inviting Epstein to campus did not violate any Harvard policies, aspects of his relationship to the PED, such as his access to the program’s offices, treatment on the PED’s website and interactions concerning one grant application, do implicate Harvard policies and our findings and recommendations address these issues.”

Bonus track:

Dear Harvard Reunion, my alma fundraiser…