As Ghislaine Maxwell hides out somewhere in the world — at one of America’s burger joints, or maybe in her boyfriend’s seaside mansion, or neither — her unconventional family, with its own scandalous history, has come back into view.
On Saturday, we got a rare glimpse of Maxwell’s 69-year-old sister, Christine, who was spotted packing up a car outside of a hotel near the Manchester-by-the-Sea residence where Ghislaine had been rumored to be staying. It’s the first sighting of one of Maxwell’s family members since pedophile billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest and death, and a hint of whom Maxwell might be leaning on as she avoids the authorities. She has been accused by several Epstein victims of helping to traffic dozens of underage girls for sex, some of whom are suing her as a co-conspirator in Epstein’s crimes.
Christine is just one of Maxwell’s seven living siblings (her sister Karine and brother Michael died at ages 3 and 15). A brother, Philip, and the eldest daughter, Anne, have not been heard from publicly for at least a decade. But tracing the four others — Christine and her twin sister, Isabel; Kevin; and Ian — along with Ghislaine, who, at 57, is the youngest, is like watching a real-life season of Succession, as these heirs to their disgraced media-mogul father’s empire have strived toward their own ambitions. Twin sisters Christine and Isabel are the most fascinating of the bunch, and have their own ties to entrepreneurial, unorthodox (and, in some cases, shady) men.
The family patriarch, media mogul Robert Maxwell, built a publishing empire and political career in the United Kingdom. But he died suddenly in 1991 from a supposed fall from his yacht (though there is speculation that he was pushed) after it was discovered that he had plundered his company’s pension funds to cover his debts. Maxwell’s sons, Kevin and Ian, who had been working for their father, were caught up in the investigation of his fraud. Since then, they’ve laid somewhat low as businessmen. Now 60 and 63, respectively, it’s unknown how much contact they’ve had with Ghislaine, but neither one has made a statement about her publicly for many years.
Christine and Isabel had more freedom to strike out on their own after the demise of the Maxwell empire. In the 1980s, they decamped to Silicon Valley and in 1993 they helped co-found Magellan, an early search engine, with Isabel’s then-husband, David Hayden. According to the Daily Beast, the sisters appear in Michael Wolff’s book on dot-com startups, Burn Rate. Wolff describes Christine as “more commanding than her sister,” but both Maxwells are memorable characters — early Winklevoss prototypes. In a 1997 interview, Isabel credits her sister with coming up with “the idea of reviewing and rating.”
The twins made millions when Magellan was sold to another company, Excite, but — according to Isabel — it cooled the relationship between the two of them. “When McKinley [Magellan’s parent company] didn’t make it, our relationship changed,” Isabel said in 2002. “And I changed, in terms of my relationship with my family. Before then, I was completely in sync with the family. When something got to them, it got to me, too.”
Since then, both sisters seem to have remained in the software and technology spheres. Christine is a doctoral candidate in the humanities department at the University of Texas at Dallas, and continues to consult for internet companies. Her UTD website lists a personal website, ChristinesWorld.com, which is no longer active, but it does have the brief personal statement that she “came to the University in January 2012 and am enjoying academia and the associated activities of ‘big city’ life very much; it’s much different from the French countryside where I was working on my own Internet content projects!” After Magellan, Isabel was the president of an Israeli email venture called Commtouch, and has continued to work in the country. She has used the title “Technology Pioneer of the World Economic Forum.” In a 2000 interview, she displays a Zuckerbergian enthusiasm for the internet: “The wonderful thing about email is it’s not sexist,” she said. “It’s democratizing.”
The Maxwell twins’ husbands have truly bizarre histories, which has led observers to point out that they share Ghislaine’s association with powerful and unconventional men. Christine is married to Roger Malina, an astrophysicist at the University of Texas, whose father, Frank Malina, was also a scientist. Malina, the Daily Beast reveals, hung out in California with the likes of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and rocket engineer Jack Parsons, occultists and transhumanists (a strange echo of Jeffrey Epstein’s friends in similar academic and business circles).
And Isabel’s romantic history might be the strangest. First, she married the son of Carl Djerassi, a scientist who invented the birth-control pill. Her third husband, Al Seckel, was a con man and “optical illusionist” who befriended scientists and academics despite not having a degree in those fields himself (sound familiar?); he co-founded a group called the Southern California Skeptics that investigated science’s relationship to the paranormal. Seckel and Isabel moved to France at some point in 2010, according to reports, where they lived in a château and “acquired thousands of stone-age tools to sell in the U.S.” That same year, Seckel hosted a “scientific conference” on Jeffrey Epstein’s private island, where Epstein also allegedly held underage girls for sex (presumably, the connection was Isabel’s little sister, Ghislaine).
Seckel died in 2015 from a rumored fall off a cliff near his home. Not unlike Robert Maxwell — according to an obituary — Seckel died just a few weeks after an article in Tablet Magazine exposed his fraudulent past and his mounting debts. But the Daily Beast reports that it has not been able to find official proof of his death. Afterward, Isabel had to declare bankruptcy.
Last week, it was rumored that Ghislaine Maxwell might be staying in Meyreuil, France, near her mother’s old estate, where Christine and her husband supposedly spent some of their time. That is, until it was reported that they sold that home in 2015 — and until Christine was seen packing up a car near Manchester-by-the-Sea. A day later, the mysterious photo of Ghislaine in Los Angeles was leaked to the New York Post, possibly by a lawyer who once represented Kevin Maxwell. It’s unknown how much contact Ghislaine has with her siblings, but it seems increasingly likely that at least one of them knows where she is.