Tycoon 'took pride in honourable bank dealings'

The Maxwell Trial : Day 83
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The Independent Online
Robert Maxwell "prided himself on his ability to meet all his obligations," the late tycoon's youngest son, Kevin, told theOld Bailey yesterday.

"He had, in his terms, for over 40 years never failed to honour a banking commitment and banking obligations," said Kevin on the sixth day of his evidence in the six-month-old Maxwell trial.

Robert Maxwell had come to rely heavily on NatWest, although he rejected its suggestion that it had become by 1991 the group's "lender of last resort", said Kevin.

His father had repeatedly relied on "John Melbourn's back pocket", a nickname he gave to a pounds 250m loan agreed by NatWest's chief executive of corporate lending at that time, John Melbourn. Robert Maxwell pledged private company assets as collateral for the "back pocket".

As Alun Jones QC, Kevin's counsel, took the court through the group's relationship with its banks in the lead-up to the fall, Kevin described how the "Max Factor" had begun to work against his father in the UK.

While the City had largely lost faith in Robert Maxwell's business by the summer of 1991, so that its assets traded at below market price on the London markets, the opposite was the case in New York where his "stock was high", said Kevin.

This prompted Robert Maxwell to plan relisting the business on the New York Stock Exchange, where it would enjoy greater support from investors. But the plan came too late as the tycoon drowned at sea on 5 November 1991. He explained the longest- standing bank relationship his father had was with the NatWest, which began soon after the war. It was a "quality relationship" and a measure of his father's trust in the bank was that he used it substantially.

But the relationship changed in 1991 when a new executive, Bob Brown, began dealing directly with the Maxwells.

He said Mr Brown was a "hatchet man" determined to reduce the bank's exposure to Maxwell "willy nilly". He refused loans and clung to shares in an Israeli company, Scitex, the Maxwells were selling.

Kevin Maxwell denies conspiring with his father in 1991 to defraud the pension scheme by misusing the Scitex shares to meet private Maxwell Company obligations. He also denies along with his brother Ian and former Maxwell adviser Larry Trachtenberg, a similar charge concerning pounds 22m worth of shares in another Israeli company Teva.

The trial continues today.