Maxwell's business practices were often considered questionable, but he sued many of those who implied that he was dishonest, notably Private Eye magazine.
In 1971, a Department of Trade and Industry report stated that Maxwell was 'not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a public company.'
He drowned under mysterious circumstances, apparently falling into the sea from his yacht moored off the Canary Islands. Only after his death did it become clear that he had embezzled a large quantity of money from the pension fund of Mirror Group Newspapers in order to support his lifestyle and ailing companies. His sons, Kevin Maxwell and Ian Maxwell, were acquitted of any involvement in the fraud.