Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, 82, will divorce his tiger wife, 44, according to the News Corp Executive Director’s spokesman. Murdoch filed for divorce this week from Wendi Deng, his wife of 14 years. The spokesman said Murdoch sought to end a marriage that had been “irretrievably broken for more than six months.”
The couple wed in 1999, his third and her second marriage. Together they have two young daughters. She gained the moniker “Tiger Wife” by deflecting a pie a heckler tried to smash in Murdoch’s face as he was testifying before the British Parliament over News Corp’s phone-hacking scandal in July 2011.
The sealed divorce filing comes just days before News Corp is to split into two companies, one containing its entertainment assets and the other holding its publishing business. Murdoch, who, according to Forbes Magazine is worth $9.4 billion, is to be the chairman of both publicly traded companies. Murdoch’s entertainment assets include Hollywood’s 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight Pictures; the Fox television networks, including Fox News; and in the U.K. the Times of London and the Sunday Times.
News Corp spokespeople deny there’s any correlation to the timing of the divorce and the splitting of Murdoch’s empire. Besides, business analysts said the end of the Murdochs’ marriage was unlikely to have an impact on his vast collection of companies. Murdoch and Deng had a prenuptial agreement, and their girls, Grace and Chloe, have stakes in the family trust that holds the Murdochs’ stake in News Corp, but they do not have voting rights in the conglomerate.
“I doubt it has a substantial impact on the spin,” Gabelli & Co analyst Brett Harriss told the Reuters news agency, referring to the News Corp separation. “Given that it’s his third wife, I see it unlikely that he didn’t plan for this contingency.”
Ira Garr, an attorney listed as representing Murdoch, previously represented Ivana Trump and actor Anthony Quinn’s wife Yolanda, in other high-profile splits. Deng (soon to be third ex-wife) is represented by attorney Pamela Sloan, chair of the Family Law section of the New York State Bar Association. Details of the prenuptial agreement were not known and it was not clear who would get the Murdochs’ luxury apartment in New York City’s Upper East Side.
Murdoch also has four grown children, Prudence from his first marriage, and Lachlan, James and Elisabeth from his second. These four grown children all have voting rights unlike Murdoch’s two children with Deng. The family trust owned 38.4 percent of the voting stock in News Corp as of April 30.
Wendi Deng is the daughter of a factory director in Guangzhou, China, and came to the United States in 1988 after serving as an interpreter for a Los Angeles couple that was working in China. The couple sponsored her to live with them, and the husband later left his wife and married Deng. After their brief marriage ended, Deng went on to get an MBA from Yale University was hired in 1996 as an intern at Murdoch’s Star TV. She met Murdoch in 1998, when she was a junior executive who acted as Murdoch’s interpreter during a business trip to China. The two married shortly after Murdoch divorced his wife of 31 years, Anna, his second.
Shortly after they married, Rupert Murdoch said in an interview with Australian magazine The Monthly that his new wife’s job was “as a home decorator,” and that she was not “some business genius about to take over News,” Murdoch quipped. “She’s intelligent, but she’s not going to do that,” he said.
Deng’s friends and family were reportedly “outraged.” “She didn’t marry him to sit at home and be a society wife,” a Deng friend told The Monthly.
When News Corp still owned Myspace, Deng gave strategic advice to that Internet business in China and earned $92,000 in fees in 2010, according to financial records, but she never had a major role in her husband’s company – unlike Murdoch’s former wife Anna Murdoch – who served on News Corp’s board until 1998.
Deng recently co-producing a movie called “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” a story set in 19th century China about the inequality of women there. It was distributed by News Corp’s Fox Searchlight in 2011, grossed just over $11 million. Deng has since produced another film, “Journey of a Thousand Miles,” based on the memoir of Chinese pianist Lang Lang.
The divorce proceedings and subsequent sideshow will no doubt be excellent sensational news fodder for many of the tabloid publications in Murdoch’s stable.
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