Max Shreck is the richest, most powerful man in Gotham City, and presents himself as a philanthropist and friend of the poor. Beneath this facade, however, he is shown to be ruthless, greedy and power-hungry, and is secretly planning to construct a power plant that will act as a capacitor and put him in control of the city's power supply. A widower, Max lives with his son Chip Shreck, whom he wants to inherit his businesses once he dies.
He is also a slumlord, deliberately making his buildings unsafe by cutting costs, and runs a chemical plant that pumps toxic waste in the city’s water supply. He also murdered his business partner Fred Atkins, and bullies and terrorizes his timid secretary Selina Kyle.
When Selina discovers the true purpose of his power plant, he pushes her out of his office window; she survives. However, she reinvents herself as Catwoman, and dedicates herself to robbing Max’s businesses and eventually killing him. One night, he is kidnapped by the Red Triangle Circus Gang and brought before their leader, The Penguin, who uses proof of his many crimes to blackmail Max into helping him take over Gotham City. To that end, Max bankrolls the Penguin’s mayoral campaign, planning to use him as a puppet to control Gotham himself. He also wants to do a recall mayoral election; if Penguin is the Mayor he can approve Max's plan to build his Power Plant, since the current Mayor turned it down.
When Batman plays a recording of the Penguin’s true plans for Gotham to “play this stinking city like a harp from hell” — the citizens of Gotham turn against the crime lord (now seeing him for what he really is), and Max turns his back on his former ally.
That night, Max throws a charity costume ball for Gotham’s wealthy elite. The Penguin, flanked by his goons, crashes the party and announces that he is going to kill Gotham’s first-born sons, starting with Chip. In a rare display of humanity, Max begs the Penguin to spare his son and take him instead.
The Penguin agrees, and takes Max hostage in his lair in Gotham’s sewer. Max escapes, but Catwoman arrives and takes him prisoner, intent on killing him. Batman, having defeated the Penguin, stops her and pleads with her to turn Max in to the police. Catwoman refuses, however, and attacks Max, who shoots her several times, but doesn’t kill her. Catwoman then puts a taser in her mouth and kisses Max, electrocuting him. After the smoke clears, Batman finds Max’s charred corpse, but Catwoman is nowhere to be seen — implying that she survived.