Tycoon `liked to act alone' in deals

The Maxwell Trial: Day 66
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The Independent Online
Robert Maxwell liked to handle business deals alone, often without boardroom consultation and without worrying about which of the companies in his empire was to become the owner of any acquisition, the Old Bailey fraud trial heard yesterday.

"The corporate entity in the group was a matter of secondary importance to him," said Mr Fred Frank, senior managing director of the international bankers, Lehman Brothers, who had flown from New York to give evidence.

He could be rude. For example, Mr Frank said, he referred to James Robinson III, chief executive of American Express - at that time Lehman's biggest shareholder - as "Jimmy Three Sticks". The tycoon could also be unpredictable. Mr Frank agreed with Clare Montgomery, defending Kevin Maxwell, that Robert Maxwell was "capable of shaking hands on a deal and equally capable of changing his mind next day".

He gave another side of the tycoon's interests when he disclosed that during negotiations with Lehmans for the sale of a huge stake in Scitex shares, he excused himself from an important meeting by saying: "I am going to see President Gorbachev."

Mr Frank was also questioned about Scitex and Teva shares, which had both been owned by the pension funds, by Mr Richard Lissack QC, prosecuting.

He said that in December 1990 he had a breakfast meetings with Kevin Maxwell and his father to discuss the "handsome profit" earned since the Maxwells had bought Scitex for the group. Kevin wanted to sell them. His father at first wanted to buy even more of them and then create an "exit strategy", the jury heard.

Asked if Robert Maxwell told him which of his companies owned the shares, Mr Frank replied: "No, he did not."

The sale of Scitex for $249m did not go through until October 1991, one month before Maxwell's death. The court heard there were "hordes of lawyers" involved in the Scitex deal and the proceeds all went to NatWest Bank and other creditors.

Kevin, his brother, Ian and former Maxwell aide Larry Trachtenberg all deny conspiracy to defraud by misuse of pension fund investments.

The trial was adjourned until today.