Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Wednesday, 9 July 2008 17:26 UK

Mosley's fight to clear his famous name

Max Mosley
The allegations have damaged Max Mosley's record as FIA president

Motorsport boss Max Mosley has won his legal action against the News of the World newspaper over allegations that he indulged in a "Nazi-style" sado-masochistic orgy with five prostitutes.

It is the latest controversy to engulf the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president with the famous name and colourful personal history.

Now in his fourth term of office, the 68-year-old has come to the wider public's attention and is under scrutiny like never before.

Mr Mosley is well aware that his family background has stoked media interest in the case.

As he told Mr Justice Eady on his first day giving evidence in the High Court: "All my life I have had hanging over me my antecedents, my parents."

'Unrepentant Nazi'

Those parents were Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and Lady Diana Mosley, described by one newspaper as an "unrepentant Nazi" after her death.

When both were jailed for their views during World War II, Max Mosley had to endure separation from his mother at a very early age. He was only fully reunited with her at the age of three.

I don't think they (the News of the World) are entitled to do this, and I intend to what I can to stop them
Max Mosley

His fluent German stems from his teenage years, where he spent two years being educated at a German school.

He was actively involved in right-of-centre politics in his younger years, campaigning for his father and later standing, unsuccessfully, as a candidate for Oswald Mosley's post-war party, the Union Movement.

Given the choice, Mr Mosley has said, he would have chosen politics as a career.

"But because of my name, that's impossible."

After training as a barrister, Mr Mosley decided to make his career in the glamorous, but apolitical, field of motor racing where, as he once told an interviewer, "I've found a world where they don't know about Oswald Mosley".

Secret interest

It was around this time that he began to indulge a secret interest in sadism and masochism which had started, Mr Mosley told the court, at "quite a young age".

Defending his actions, he said: "I fundamentally disagree with the suggestion that any of this is depraved.

"I think it is a perfectly harmless activity provided it is between consenting adults who want to do it, are of sound mind, and it is in private."

Oswald Mosley
Max Mosley's father Oswald led the British fascists before WWII

But up until now it was a secret activity that his wife Jean Taylor and two children, Alexander and Patrick, were unaware of.

He said: "My wife and I have been married for 48 years and together for more than 50 - we met as teenagers - and she never knew of this aspect of my life."

Meanwhile, Max Mosley's legal training and undoubted political skills were propelling him up the motor sport career ladder, from a successful driver in the 1960s to head of the FIA in 1993.

But beneath the measured, suave exterior, he has been unafraid to use some direct methods - and language - to get his way.


In 2007, he publicly called former world champion driver Jackie Stewart a "certified half-wit" after the Scot criticised his handling of the "spy-gate" scandal involving McLaren and Ferrari.

Former world champion Damon Hill said: "Certainly his style of presidency has a very strong authoritarian streak to it, which I think does intimidate journalists and people who work in the sport."

Along with his long-time associate Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley has ruled Formula One in sometimes controversial ways - even if many of the things he achieved have much merit.

Diana Mosley
Diana Mosley's wedding was held in Joseph Goebbels' house

He has stated that his greatest achievement as FIA boss is to make Formula One racing much safer.

As an amateur racer, who had competed in the 1968 Formula Two race at Hockenheim in which double world champion Jim Clark was killed, Mosley had already been well aware of the terrible dangers of the sport.

His experiences as co-founder of March - a racing car manufacturer - during the 1970s and 80s bequeathed him a good practical knowledge of F1 technology.

From the mid-1990s Max Mosley set about bringing in wide-ranging changes: reducing engine capacity, introducing grooved tyres to reduce cornering speeds, redesigning circuits and ensuring there was more rigorous crash-testing of the cars' chassis.

Green issues

In addition he has pushed for Formula One to begin developing environmentally-friendly technology, which can also be applied to road cars.

To this end, Mr Mosley put in place a 10-year ban on engine development, in order to ensure manufacturers spend more of their budget on "green" issues.

Although the moves are highly commendable, there is some suspicion that his motives were driven as much by the need for F1 to safeguard its future as they were for safeguarding the future of the planet.

Now that his unorthodox interests have been exposed, Max Mosley's future within the sport looks increasingly uncertain.

Although Bernie Ecclestone initially supported the determination of his friend of 40 years not to stand down, he later declared that he "should go out of responsibility for the institution he represents."

And a motor sport insider told the BBC that Max Mosley's decision to hang on after the initial allegations demonstrated "a catastrophic lack of political judgement".


In refusing to go quietly, Max Mosley has demonstrated a stubbornness of character that has served him well at times in pushing difficult and complex decisions through the industry.

That trait revealed itself in his decision to take on a powerful newspaper in court - in the knowledge that further potentially embarrassing details about his lifestyle might emerge.

Bernie Ecclestone
Bernie Ecclestone has withdrawn the support he initially offered

He also showed a certain audaciousness in his demand for unprecedented "very big" exemplary damages for breach of privacy.

At the High Court on 24 July, Mr Justice Eady did not make that award.

In an interview he gave before the case started, he stated: "I don't think they (the News of the World) are entitled to do this, and I intend to what I can to stop them."

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