Notorious: Felix Dennis, with porn star Cathy Barry at a London party, spent $100million on ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’
Felix Dennis was a maverick publisher who said he spent $100million on ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ in his riotous life.
The late Mr Dennis died of throat cancer in 2014 at the age of 67.
The businessman was one of the founders of 1960s counter-culture magazine Oz and was jailed for nine months after being found guilty of obscenity in 1971 before being cleared on appeal.
He went on to make his £500million fortune through Dennis Publishing, the magazine stable behind Maxim and The Week and proudly admitted spending a huge chunk of his fortune on women and drugs.
As a younger man he had a passion for ‘five-in-a bed’ romps with some of the ’14 mistresses’ kept on hxis company’s payroll, as well as a crack cocaine habit that alone saw him squander £50million.
He also described himself as a ‘coked-up, overweight, cigarette- smoking, malt-whisky swilling idiot with too much money’.
But after he was warned he faced ‘a one way ticket to jail or the morgue’ he gave up crack cocaine and became a poet.
Dennis, who divided his time between homes in Warwickshire, London, New York, Connecticut and the Caribbean island of Mustique, claimed to have become rich by ‘accident’ and listed his other interests as ‘planting trees, commissioning bronze sculpture, drinking French wine and avoiding business meetings’.
Dennis’s approach to life included spending an estimated $100 million on what he described as ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ and becoming the first person to say c*** on British television.
His foul-mouthed first came during an episode of The David Frost Programme which included a lengthy interview with a group of hippies.
Fame: Mr Dennis, centre, with James Anderson, right, and Richard Neville, left, outside court at the obscenity trial of their magazine, Oz, in 1971. Felix was jailed for nine months but then cleared on appeal
He later said his mother refused to speak to him for three years afterwards.
Dennis grew up in the London suburbs and went to Harrow College of Art but left to play in a series of bands which flopped but served as his introduction to the capital’s counter-culture.
Outlandish: Mr Dennis was known for a love of swearing and listed his interests as ‘planting trees and drinking wine’
His involvement with Oz saw him stand trial charged with conspiracy to corrupt public morals after a special issue included a pornographic version of Rupert the Bear.
The trial was a sensation and make Dennis and his fellow defendants famous. They were defended by lawyer and novelist John Mortimer and eventually acquitted on appeal.
The son of a part-time jazz pianist who ran a tobacconist’s shop, his father abandoned the family when Dennis was barely two.
For a time he, his mother and brother lived in his grandparents’ tiny terrace house in Thames Ditton, not far from his birthplace in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey, a place with ‘no electricity, no indoor lavatory or bathroom … no electric light, but gas and candles’.
In spite of this uncertain start, Dennis was determined to be rich.
He admitted to being ‘insolent, arrogant and frightening’ in his pursuit of money, and in 1968 that led him to the door of Richard Neville and his fledgling magazine Oz.
Then 21, Dennis started selling the magazine on the King’s Road in West London, often with the help of pretty young girls in mini-skirts, and suddenly found himself making as much as £100 a day.
‘Nobody I knew had ever earned £100 in a fortnight,’ he said.
But in 1971 came the obscenity trial, and with it notoriety and a prison sentence.
After he was cleared he experimented with publishing comics, but that quickly gave way to selling posters and a magazine celebrating the martial-arts star Bruce Lee, which later became Kung Fu Monthly. Dennis and a friend also wrote a biography of Lee.
Bruce Lee’s sudden death in 1973 saw the magazine’s circulation shoot up incredibly. It ran for nine years, was printed in 11 countries.
By 1974 his company was making £5,000 a day – and he had £60,000 in the bank.
Entrepreneur: Felix Dennis was brought up by a penniless single mother and went on to make £500million
Within two years he began producing magazines for personal computer users and bought the fledgling magazine Personal Computer Weekly.
Just four years later, in 1982 – after selling his stable of IT magazines for ‘a shed load of money’, he was a multi-millionaire, at 35.
Success went to his head. ‘In a single decade I got through £50 million,’ and described himself as a ‘crack connoisseur’ but after he was warned he faced a ‘one way ticket to jail or the morgue’ he gave up drugs.
He said: ‘It was probably the hardest thing I have ever done and I have been a far, far happier man ever since, and probably a nicer man’.
After launching Maxim and making even more money he became a published poet following a life-threatening illness and embarked on a series of book tours and sponsored a prominent poetry prize.