Felix Dennis, Counter-Cultural Icon and Publisher Who Spent $100m on Fast Living, Dies
Felix Dennis, the legendary and hard-living British publisher of Oz magazine who won a landmark obscenity trial in the sixties, has died, his office announced today.
Mr Dennis, who claimed to have ‘pissed away’ more than $100m on “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” had been suffering throat cancer for many years.
He was a hugely controversial figure, who was open about his five-in-a-bed sex sessions, his girlfriends who were put on the company payroll and his use of the drug crack cocaine, on which he spent millions of pounds.
He was also, famously, the first man to say the c-word on British televison.
"I built a Nasdaq company turning over $2.5m while on crack cocaine," he told an interviewer for the Guardian last year, “I never slept for five years. You can get a lot done if you don't have to waste fucking time sleeping."
He once claimed in an interview to have murdered a man (he subsequently retracted the claim) and in later life wrote seven books of poetry. They shot to the top of the bestseller lists after he offered free drink to anyone buying his books at bookstore poetry readings.
However, it was in his role as the publisher of Oz magazine in London in the tail end of the sixties that he made his most significant contribution to global culture.
In 1971, Mr Dennis and two other editors of the London edition of Oz magazine were jailed for "conspiring to corrupt public morals" after allowing schoolchildren to edit an edition, which contained a sexually explicit ‘Rupert The Bear” cartoon.
Dennis recorded a single with John Lennon to raise money for a legal defence fund.
Dennis and his two co-defendants were later acquitted and released on appeal.
He went on to found Dennis Publishing in 1973, with one of the company’s first successful titles being Kung-Fu Monthly.
His company went on to become the publisher of a stable of titles including Maxim, which at one stage was the world’s biggest selling men’s lifestyle title.
Dennis’s personal wealth largely derives from co-founding US computer mail order company MicroWarehouse, which floated on Nasdaq in 1992 and was later sold to a private equity group.
When he was interviewed recently and asked about his reaction to being diagnosed with cancer he said it was, “Rage. Absolute rage … I had no real right to be angry given that I'd smoked for 50 years, but that's not what it's about. I'm in a rage because I haven't finished. There's still so much to do and suddenly mortality is getting in the way. My friends are starting to die and I don't like it. I understand it, but I don't bloody like it."
A statement released by his office said: "We are deeply saddened to announce that Felix Dennis passed away yesterday surrounded by his loved ones. After a long and painful battle with cancer, Felix died peacefully at his home in Dorsington, aged 67.
"Felix was a publishing legend, famed for his maverick and entrepreneurial style and, more lately, a successful and much-loved poet. He will be greatly missed.
"Thank you for the support and kindness of those who share our feelings for Felix, and we ask that you respect our privacy during our time of grief.”