Media mogul's divorce could be one of most expensive ever

By Adam Sherwin

Social media sites hot with speculation over reasons for media mogul's divorce from his third wife

Rupert Murdoch, 82, married Wendi Deng, 44, in 1999. They have two children. Photo / Getty Images
Rupert Murdoch, 82, married Wendi Deng, 44, in 1999. They have two children. Photo / Getty Images

Rupert Murdoch could be heading for another of the most expensive divorces ever.

Murdoch, the 82-year-old chief executive of News Corp, has filed for divorce from his wife Wendi Deng Murdoch, 44, prompting speculation that the world's largest media empire could become engulfed in a bitter inheritance battle.

Speculation is also growing over the reason for the breakdown, with BBC business editor Robert Peston yesterday tweeting that he had been "told undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping - & hate myself for wanting to know what they are".

Michael Wolff, Murdoch's biographer, tweeted: "I'm hearing the WHY, the big reveal, the scandal details, could come tomorrow" and that "rumour about the big B is everywhere except in print".

Wolff also suggested things could get messy, tweeting "It isn't pleasant to be divorced by @rupertmurdoch" and that "Murdoch threatened to do bad things to me (some he did) if I revealed affair w/Wendi started before he left his wife".

Murdoch married Chinese-born Deng Murdoch in 1999. The couple have two daughters, aged 11 and 9.

The media mogul, whose wealth is estimated at US$11.2 billion ($13.9 billion), filed for divorce on the grounds that his relationship with his third wife had broken down "irretrievably for more than 6 months".

The divorce petition was filed yesterday in the New York Supreme Court.

Deng Murdoch, famed for attacking a protester who hit her husband with a custard pie, was informed in advance of her husband's decision, according to a person close to the family. The divorce could prove one of the most expensive in legal history.

Murdoch's split from his second wife Anna Maria cost him US$1.7 billion, including a US$110 million cash settlement, in 1999. That is the second most expensive divorce ever, after French businessman Alec Wildenstein's divorce from Jocelyn Wildenstein, estimated at US$2.5 billion, also in 1999.

Previous nanny Ying Shu said Murdoch and Murdoch Deng, who divorced her first husband in 1993, frequently took to separate beds. Hsu said. "The marriage isn't great. A lot of times they slept separately."

Deng achieved international prominence in 2011 when she landed a blow on a protester who threw a pie at her husband when he gave evidence before a British Parliamentary inquiry into phone hacking. At the time it was seen as the fiercely protective act of a loving wife.

Murdoch and Deng Murdoch, who met at a Hong Kong company party in 1997, married just three weeks after his previous divorce was finalised.

A pre-nuptial agreement between Murdoch and Deng Murdoch and two post-nuptial agreements will now be enforced. During the marriage, Deng Murdoch played an increasingly prominent role in Murdoch's business.

Murdoch, a father-of-six, has sought to negotiate a solution to demands by his four adult children that he resolve the succession question hanging over News Corp.

Deng Murdoch insisted that Grace and Chloe, her two young children with Murdoch, be represented in the family trust which controls News Corp, along with the oldest four children from his previous marriages - daughters Prudence and Elisabeth, and sons Lachlan and James.

When Murdoch divorced Anna, she gave up her claim to half the Murdoch fortune in order to ensure that Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James, together with her stepdaughter, Prudence, would be guaranteed control of News Corp. In the settlement, Murdoch got four votes in the trust and each of the children got one vote. The adult children opposed the suggestion that Deng Murdoch's children should have voting representation in the trust.

Under a hard-fought agreement, each of the Murdoch children, including Deng Murdoch's, received a US$150 million disbursement from the trust. However the Deng Murdoch daughters received no votes.

If the arrangement were revisited as part of Murdoch's latest divorce settlement, it could produce fresh resentments and undermine the billionaire's bid to maintain control of News Corp and reposition the company for the digital future, following the British phone hacking scandal.

Under pressure from investors Murdoch has agreed to divide the business into two public companies: one for its entertainment assets, including the Fox film studio and television company and another for the publishing businesses, including British newspapers the Sun and the Times.

A News Corporation spokeswoman said the divorce would have no impact on the company.

Analysts said the end of the Murdochs' marriage was unlikely to have an effect on the corporate separation, which will be completed on June 28.

"I doubt it has a substantial impact on the spin," said Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss. "Given that it's his third wife, I see it unlikely that he didn't plan for this contingency."

Deng was born to a well-off Chinese family. A champion volleyball player, by 16 she had enrolled at medical school in Guangzhou, a southern Chinese city.

Graduating from Yale in 1996, she went to work at News Corp's Star TV in Hong Kong and in 1998 was deputed to act as Murdoch's interpreter in Shanghai and Beijing.


Most expensive divorces

US$2.5b ($3.1b) - French businessman Alec Wildenstein to New York socialite Jocelyn Wildenstein in 1999. She also received an annual US$100 million for the next 13 years, according to reports from American and British tabloids.

US$874m - Saudi businessman Adnan Khashoggi to Soraya in 1974, according to the Daily Telegraph.

US$750m - Steve Wynn, CEO of casino empire Wynn Resorts, to Elaine Wynn.

US$1.7b - Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch to his second wife, Anna, in 1999.

US$1.2b - Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to wife Slavica in 2009, according to Forbes.


Rupert Murdoch's assets

Businesses - As the chairman of News Corp Murdoch has a pay package worth more than US$20 million ($24.8 million) a year but his overall worth is put at US$17.5 billion by Forbes. News Corp itself is valued at US$70.7 billion. Among its - and his - assets are 175 newspapers, including the Sun and The Sunday Times, Twentieth Century Fox Studio, and 35 TV stations, among them Fox News.

Homes - He recently bought the US$30 million, 5ha Moraga Vineyards in Bel Airwith a mansion, guest house, office space and wine cave. His New York apartment at 834 Fifth Ave cost US$44 million in 2005. He has an 11-bed villa in Beverley Hills, a luxury apartment in Mayfair and, reportedly, homes in Beijing and Melbourne.

Yachts - The 60m superyacht Vertigo, the seventh largest sailing yacht in the world, cost about US$80 million. It boasts six staterooms, a swimming pool, a gym and a crew of 11. It won "Greatest Design" at the 2012 Monaco Yacht Show. The mogul also owns the 55m Rosehearty which has five luxury suites and is available for charter - at US$370,000 a week.

Jets - Murdoch has two private jets. One is a Boeing 737 with custom-built interior and a price tag of US$62-$82 million. His other jet is a Gulfstream 550, which can carry up to 18 passengers and has with a reputation as one of the most stylish long-range business aeroplanes. Prices start at US$67.3 million.

Cars - Among the cars Murdoch is known to have around the world are three Range Rovers and a US$55,000 Lexus GS450H.


- Independent

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