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Max Mosley dead: F1 boss and son of fascist leader dies aged 81 after long cancer battle

Former Formula 1 chief Max Mosley died at home in Chelsea last night aged 81, following a long battle with cancer.

Mr Mosley, whose father Sir Oswald Mosley was the wartime leader of the British Union of Fascists and a Hitler sympathiser, was an outspoken president of the FIA, the motorsport’s governing body, for 16 years between 1993 and 2009 and is regarded as one of F1’s most influential ever figures.

The F1 tycoon, a qualified barrister and racing driver, later became an enemy of the free press and backed calls for stricter controls on the media after Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid News of the World published photos and video of him at a sadomasochistic orgy with five prostitutes in 2008.  

Mr Mosley successfully sued the paper for breach of confidence and misuse of private information and went on to use his millions to bankroll state-recognised press watchdog Impress, which was set up in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry and has been regarded by critics as an attack on free speech. 

In 2018, he found himself embroiled in yet more controversy over allegations that he published a racist campaign leaflet in support of his father’s Union movement in a 1961 by-election which linked non-white immigrants with diseases such as tuberculosis, VD and leprosy. Mr Mosley said he did not ‘recognise’ the leaflet and it was ‘not something I would have ever wished to be associated with’.  

His parents – Sir Oswald and Lady Diana Mosley, the third of the Mitford sisters – were both jailed during the Second World War for their sympathy for Hitler. Their secret wedding was even attended by Hitler and hosted in the home of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels in Berlin in 1936.

After qualifying as a barrister, Mr Mosley became involved in motorsports and made the dangerous sport safer. He went on to build F1 into a global mega-brand alongside ex-F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, who told MailOnline today that his death was akin to losing a brother.

The 90-year-old magnate also admitted that he wished he had done more to defend Mr Mosley in the wake of the 2008 News of the World scandal, when F1 sponsors wanted him sacked.  

Mr Mosley is survived by his wife Jean, who he married in 1960 and who stood by him as his F1 career was overshadowed by the Sunday tabloid front page splash. He also has a son Patrick.

A statement from his relatives said: ‘The family of Max Mosley can confirm that he died last night after a long battle with cancer. They ask to be allowed to grieve in private’. 

Former Formula One tycoon Max Mosley has died at home in west London aged 81, MailOnline revealed today

Bernie Ecclestone confirmed Mr Mosley's death to MailOnline and described it as like losing a member of his family. The pair helped build F1 into an international mega-brand in the 1990s

Bernie Ecclestone confirmed Mr Mosley’s death to MailOnline and described it as like losing a member of his family. The pair helped build F1 into an international mega-brand in the 1990s 

Max Mosley seen at the wheel of a race car back in 1968, when he started as a driver before his meteoric rise in the sport

Max Mosley seen at the wheel of a race car back in 1968, when he started as a driver before his meteoric rise in the sport

Max is survived by his wife Jean Mosley, who he married in Chelsea in 1960 (pictured)

He was the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the odious Blackshirt fascist leader and Hitler sympathiser, right together with his mother Lady Diana Mosley in 1962

Max is survived by his wife Jean Mosley, who he married in Chelsea in 1960 (pictured). He was the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, the odious Blackshirt fascist leader and Hitler sympathiser, right together with his mother Lady Diana Mosley in 1962

Bernie Ecclestone told MailOnline: ‘It’s like losing a family member, he was like a brother to me. We understood each other. It meant that one of us could criticise the other if we didn’t like a particular idea. I’d always kept in touch with him and we spoke often. 

‘It goes without saying that I am sorry that I am Max has died but it is also a merciful release. He had been in a bad way for weeks and I am just glad he didn’t suffer for too long. I have lost what feels like a member of my family. 

‘Max did a lot of good things for motor sport and did a lot of good things for the motor industry in terms of making cars super safe. He was a straight forward guy, he wasn’t someone who suffered fools gladly.

‘One of my big regrets is not speaking out for him during his well publicised sex scandal but at the time I had the FIA and the sponsors all advising against him. But Max was happy, he understood the position I was in. I will miss him.’

Three-time F1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart praised Mr Mosley’s contribution to motor sport, calling him ‘a remarkable man in many ways and a really well-educated man’. ‘He was controversial, there is no doubt, but he did things in motor sport that we should all be grateful for,’ he added in a statement. 

A spokesperson for Formula 1 said they had lost a big character who changed much in the sport.  They added: ‘We are saddened to hear that Max Mosley former FIA President has passed away. A huge figure in the transition of Formula 1. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.’

Current FIA President Jead Todt added: ‘Deeply saddened by the passing of Max Mosley. He was a major figure in F1 and motor sport. As FIA President for 16 years, he strongly contributed to reinforcing safety on track & on the roads. The entire FIA community pays tribute to him. Our thoughts & prayers are with his family.’

Two-time F1 World Champion Mika Häkkinen also left warm words for him and his relatives. He wrote on Twitter: ‘Saddened to hear that Max Mosley passed away.’ 

Mr Mosley, who was born in London on April 13, 1940, was the son of 1930s British fascist leader Sir Oswald. His mother Lady Diana was one of six famous society sisters and an admirer of Hitler. Shortly after he was born, both his parents were arrested under wartime regulations as Nazi sympathisers. 

Mr Mosley was sent to school in Germany for two years where he learned to speak fluent German. On his return to England, he spent a year at Millfield, a prestigious international boarding school, and then later went on to the University of Oxford, graduating with a degree in physics in 1961.

He married wife Jean, the daughter of a South London policeman, at Chelsea Registry Office in June 1960.   

Max Mosley talks with McLaren F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and his brother Nick at the 2007 FIA Gala Prize Giving Ceremony

Max Mosley talks with McLaren F1 driver Lewis Hamilton and his brother Nick at the 2007 FIA Gala Prize Giving Ceremony

Engineering team principals Max Mosley (later FIA president), Alan Rees and Robin Herd with the Ford Cosworth V8 engine before the start of the 1971 Formula 1 Grand Prix season at the March Engineering facility in Bicester, United Kingdom

Engineering team principals Max Mosley (later FIA president), Alan Rees and Robin Herd with the Ford Cosworth V8 engine before the start of the 1971 Formula 1 Grand Prix season at the March Engineering facility in Bicester, United Kingdom

Max Mosley and his wife Jean at Chelsea Register Office in 1960. The ex-F1 tycoon is survived by his wife

Max Mosley and his wife Jean at Chelsea Register Office in 1960. The ex-F1 tycoon is survived by his wife 

Left to right: Max Mosley, Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone, and Ronaldo pose on the grid of the Monaco racetrack, 2003

Left to right: Max Mosley, Flavio Briatore, Bernie Ecclestone, and Ronaldo pose on the grid of the Monaco racetrack, 2003

Max Mosley making a statement following a meeting with FOTA at the Sofitel in London, May 15, 2009

Max Mosley at the FIA Gala in Monte Carlo, Monaco in December 2006

Max Mosley at the Sofitel in London, May 15, 2009, left, and at the FIA Gala in Monte Carlo, Monaco in December 2006 right. 

Mosley’s battle with the press after S&M story

Mosley was featured on the front page of the News of the World after it discovered he was having a sadomasochistic sex session.

The newspaper had reported it as a ‘sick Nazi orgy’ but Mr Justice Eady ruled in court that he found no evidence of Nazi themes.

He also said there was no public interest defence in the clandestine recording of the session.

Mosley – under the name of Mike – had walked to a £2million riverside flat which he rented for a year on London’s Chelsea embankment with £2,500 cash in his pocket to pay the five prostitutes.

The main dominatrix, a blonde referred to as Woman A, had arrived earlier with whips and uniforms including a modern Luftwaffe jacket.

Dressed in her German military uniform, she gave Mr Mosley a ‘judicial’ — which Mr Justice Eady explained in his judgment is a ‘very common form of role-play on the S&M scene’. Mr Mosley’s ‘sentence’ involved him being ordered to undress and given a ‘medical inspection’, including his head being examined for lice.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Eady quoted from the News of the World’s report of what happened, which was headlined ‘F1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With 5 Hookers’.

It said Mr Mosley lay naked and trussed up in chains as one of the women beat his backside with a cane until he bled.

Mr Mosley’s masochistic punishment over, he then proceeded to take a turn as a sadist. He beat two prostitutes wearing striped prison uniforms, counting out the lashes in German.

But Mr Justice Eady, Britain’s top privacy judge at the time, said it was clear that Mr Mosley ‘threw himself into his role with considerable enthusiasm’ and it was all ‘no doubt interesting to the public’.

But he concluded Mr Mosley’s ‘unconventional’ sex life — which he had indulged in for some 45 years — was not genuinely a matter of public interest. And he ruled that there was no Nazi element to the orgy, as the newspaper had claimed.

He ruled: ‘There was bondage, beating and domination which seem to be typical of S and M behaviour. But there was no public interest or other justification for the clandestine recording, for the publication of the resulting information and still photographs, or for the placing of the video extracts on the News of the World website – all of this on a massive scale.’

After a short career as a barrister and several years as an amateur racing driver, he then forged a career in motor racing, taking control of the FIA in 1993 until 2009 – leaving after a year of battling to keep his job over the orgy filmed by a prostitute and sold to the News of the World. 

As president of motorsport’s governing body, the Oxford University-educated Briton oversaw the stunning global spread of F1, with new races in Asia and the Middle East.

But he was also in charge at the time of the tragic death of star driver Ayrton Senna in 1994, multiple scandals and furious squabbling within the sport about its astronomic costs and the distribution of its massive revenues.

Mr Mosley said his greatest achievement was making the dangerous sport safer after the death of Senna, Brazil’s beloved three-time world champion.

In 2008 he won a privacy case against the News of the World newspaper after it printed photographs and published video of his involvement in a sadomasochistic sex session.

It was reported by the newspaper as a ‘sick Nazi orgy’ but Justice Eady found no evidence of Nazi themes in his judgement.

He also said there was no public interest defence in the clandestine recording of the session.

On the afternoon of March 28, 2008, Mr Mosley — calling himself ‘Mike’ — walked to a £2million riverside flat which he rented for a year on London’s Chelsea embankment with £2,500 cash in his pocket to pay the five prostitutes.

The main dominatrix, a blonde referred to as Woman A, had arrived earlier with whips and uniforms including a modern Luftwaffe jacket.

Dressed in her German military uniform, she gave Mr Mosley a ‘judicial’ — which Mr Justice Eady explained in his judgment is a ‘very common form of role-play on the S&M scene’.

Mr Mosley’s ‘sentence’ involved him being ordered to undress and given a ‘medical inspection’, including his head being examined for lice.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Eady quoted from the News of the World’s report of what happened, which was headlined ‘F1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With 5 Hookers’. 

It said Mr Mosley lay naked and trussed up in chains as one of the women beat his backside with a cane until he bled.

Mr Mosley’s masochistic punishment over, he then proceeded to take a turn as a sadist.

He beat two prostitutes wearing striped prison uniforms, counting out the lashes in German.   

Mr Justice Eady, Britain’s top privacy judge at the time, said it was clear that Mr Mosley ‘threw himself into his role with considerable enthusiasm’ and it was all ‘no doubt interesting to the public’.

But he concluded Mr Mosley’s ‘unconventional’ sex life — which he had indulged in for some 45 years — was not genuinely a matter of public interest.

And he ruled that there was no Nazi element to the orgy, as the newspaper had claimed. ‘There was bondage, beating and domination which seem to be typical of S and M behaviour,’ he said.

But there was no public interest or other justification for the clandestine recording, for the publication of the resulting information and still photographs, or for the placing of the video extracts on the News of the World website – all of this on a massive scale.

‘Of course, I accept that such behaviour is viewed by some people with distaste and moral disapproval, but in the light of modern rights-based jurisprudence that does not provide any justification for the intrusion on the personal privacy of the Claimant.’

The High Court awarded Mr Mosley £60,000 damages after ruling that there was no justification for a front-page article and pictures about his meeting with five prostitutes in a London flat.

But while the paper was also ordered to pay £420,000 of his legal costs his total bill came to more than £500,000, leaving Mr Mosley £30,000 out of pocket, he later revealed.

FIA World Council chairman Max Mosley following an FIA hearing into Michael Schumacher's crash with Jacques Villeneuve

FIA World Council chairman Max Mosley following an FIA hearing into Michael Schumacher’s crash with Jacques Villeneuve

Max Mosley seen deep in conversation with Ron Dennis, Grand Prix of Monaco, Circuit de Monaco, back on 22 May, 2005

Max Mosley seen deep in conversation with Ron Dennis, Grand Prix of Monaco, Circuit de Monaco, back on 22 May, 2005

Max Mosley, ex-Formula One boss speaks to the media outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in London, 2012

Max Mosley, ex-Formula One boss speaks to the media outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in London, 2012

During his High Court battle, Mr Mosley said: ‘All my life I have had hanging over me my antecedents, my parents, and the last thing I want to do in some sexual context is be reminded of it.

‘I wouldn’t consider my parents to be Nazi, but there is obviously a link.’

Appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in 2009, he sparked a stunned response from MPs when he said his father might have overdone it a bit.

Mr Mosley said: ‘When I was young I always stuck up for him. You always have sympathy for your parents and I see why he did what he did – it does not mean I agree with him.’

Explaining his actions in the wake of the News of the World scandal, Mr Mosley added: ‘I think it is better to underdo it than overdo it.’ Citing Sir Oswald as an example, he said: ‘I think he overdid it – that stopped people thinking seriously about his ideas.’

Max Mosley successfully sued over this News of the World exclusive in 2008

Max Mosley successfully sued over this News of the World exclusive in 2008

Mr Mosley oversaw March’s legal and commercial affairs from 1969 to 1977 and became the official legal advisor to the Formula One Constructors’ Association (FOCA) in the mid-70s.

He helped draw up a peace agreement between FOCA and FISA, F1’s governing body at the time, and went on to become FISA president in 1991.

Two years later, he took over unopposed at the FIA, leading the safety reforms in the sport which followed the death of Ayrton Senna at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1994.

As president, Mr Mosley pledged that the FIA should make a difference in the world outside motor racing and set about promoting increased road safety and the use of green technology.

In 1996, Mr Mosley led the FIA’s successful campaign to modernise and strengthen European Union crash test standards for the first time since 1974 and also promoted the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), the independent crash-test organisation.

In 2004, Mr Mosley helped set up the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety in order to develop and improve safety measures across all areas of motor sport, from junior racing to top-level championships.

He was re-elected as FIA president three times – in 1997, 2001 and 2005 – each time unopposed before Jean Todt replaced him in 2009.

Following stories about his sex life in the British tabloids and his subsequent successful court battle, he became a high-profile campaigner for tougher regulation of the press.

He donated millions of pounds to help fund various press reform groups and bankrolled some of the victims of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

He took legal action against Google in Germany, arguing the search engine was linking to illegal images. The two parties came to a settlement in 2015.

Mr Mosley, who had been involved in his father’s post-war party, the far-Right Union Movement, in his teens and early 20s, abandoned attempts to launch a political career with the Conservative party in the 1980s, claiming his name would have been a handicap.

He joined the Labour party during Tony Blair’s leadership and later became a donor. 

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