Press regulation campaigner and ex-motorsports boss Max Mosley dies

Max Mosley, the former motorsports boss whose high-profile court battle with a tabloid newspaper turned him into a privacy campaigner, has died.

The death of the 81-year-old, who had been suffering from cancer, was confirmed by ex-Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on Monday afternoon.

Mr Ecclestone told the PA news agency: “He died last night. He was like family to me. We were like brothers. I am pleased in a way because he suffered for too long.”

Mr Mosley, who spent decades working in the motorsport world and formerly served as president of its governing body the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile), became an advocate for tighter press regulation in the wake of a 2008 privacy High Court battle against a now-defunct Sunday tabloid.

Mr Mosley successfully sued the publisher of the News Of The World after the newspaper wrongly reported he had attended a “Nazi-themed” sex party.

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.

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

“To me it was worth it, but an awful lot of people would say ‘if in addition to getting everything repeated again, I’m going to have a big bill, I’m not going to do it’,” he said in 2009.

Mr Mosley said he was “horrified” at seeing himself on the front of the then best-selling newspaper, adding that he would never recover his dignity.

He said: “It has never happened to me fortunately, but it felt like coming through your front door and everything in the house had been removed by thieves.

“I was shocked, annoyed, angry and outraged.”

Max Mosley court case
Max Mosley (centre) leaves the High Court during his privacy battle with the News of the World in 2008 (Carl Court/PA)

He said at the time he had trusted the five women involved in the sadomasochistic sex sessions exposed by the News Of The World.

The worst aspect of the case for them was the fear that their parents or children would find out, he told MPs in 2009.

He called for the media to give people greater opportunity to seek court injunctions before running stories.

Mr Mosley’s campaign for tighter press regulation saw him donate funds to Impress, the only regulator which was recognised by the Press Recognition Panel (PRP) under the Royal Charter following the Leveson Inquiry into press standards.

Mr Mosley branded the Government’s decision not to implement Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry into the press and media a “disgrace”.

Impress chief executive Ed Procter said: “Max Mosley played a vital role in supporting the Leveson Inquiry’s call for more accountable press regulation and improved access to justice for victims of press misconduct, and in putting his own resources behind efforts to ensure that these issues will not be forgotten.”

Born in London on April 13 1940, Mr Mosley was the son of 1930s British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley.

In 2009, a year after the News Of The World story was published, Mr Mosley’s life was hit by tragedy when his son, Alexander, died.

The death of the 39-year-old, a long-term heroin user, was ruled by a coroner to be due to non-dependent drug abuse.

In 2011, Mr Mosley said the revelations about his private life by the News Of The World had been difficult for his wife, who no longer wanted to go out.

He also said the story had a “very bad effect” on Alexander.

Campaign group Hacked Off said Mr Mosley later set up a trust in his son’s memory which had “supported ethics and accountability in the press”.

A spokesman for the group added: “Max’s mission was to ensure that others would not suffer the same mistreatment as himself and his family, and that mechanisms would exist to provide access to justice which was otherwise reserved for the wealthy.

“Although this made him a target of intense press and political attacks, his commitment to reform on behalf of others remained undimmed.

“It is thanks to his courage and generosity that the movement for a more ethical press remains so effective today.”

Mr Mosley studied physics at Oxford University but later trained as a lawyer and became a barrister specialising in patent and trademark law.

In his youth he developed a love of motor racing and was involved in Formula 2 for Brabham and Lotus before retiring in 1969.

He founded a car manufacturing company, March Engineering, and oversaw its legal and commercial affairs from 1969 to 1977.

He was FIA president from 1993 to 2009.