Everything You Wanted to Know About Rupert and Wendi Murdoch (But Were Afraid to Ask)
She was born Deng Wen Ge in China, in 1968, to college-educated engineer parents in an upper-middle-class household. As detailed in an infamous Wall Street Journal profile from 2000, Wendi Deng later immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 with the help of a couple from La Crescenta, Calif. -- Jake and Joyce Cherry. Jake was building a factory in China at the time, and his wife taught Wendi, who was then studying toward a medical degree, how to speak English. The couple eventually sponsored a student visa application for the 19-year-old Deng, and she lived with them in their home, sharing a bunk bed with their 5-year-old daughter.
But all was not right with the arrangement, Joyce suspected, especially after she found “a cache of photographs her husband had taken of Miss Deng in coquettish poses in his hotel room in Guangzhou,” as the New York Times put it. Jake later admitted he had become infatuated with the young foreign exchange student, who had begun to offer “recommendations” on things like diet and wardrobe.
Within months, Jake and Wendi were living together in a small apartment near Cal State Northridge, where Deng was enrolled. The Cherrys divorced, and Jake and Wendi married in 1990. That marriage lasted less than three years. Upon ending it, Wendi admitted that she could never see Jake, 30 years her senior, as anything more than a father figure. She sought no financial gain in the divorce proceedings.
Rupert Murdoch first met Wendi in 1998. He was 67 and a billionaire media tycoon; she was 29, an intern at a Hong Kong-based satellite company he owned. According to a 2005 New York magazine profile of Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s third-born, Wendi was “the first person to put her hand up” in a staff meeting. Rupert was instantly taken with her beauty, boldness and intelligence. The chemistry was instant, and Deng became Rupert’s chaperone and interpreter throughout his stay.
"I had heard of him before but never seen him," Deng told the China Daily in 2008. "My boss assigned me to introduce the Chinese market to him. He was very interested in Chinese culture and we talked a lot."
The couple first started appearing in public together in 1998, one year before Rupert's marriage to his first wife, Anna Maria Torv, ended after a protracted divorce settlement. Seventeen days after the papers were signed -- at a cost to Rupert of $1.7 billion -- he married Wendi on his yacht, Morning Glory, in New York Harbor.
“Wendi happily traveled the world with him, sweetly holding his hand in the back of a sedan (Rupert thinks limousines pretentious),” New York’s Steve Fishman wrote. “She accompanied him to China, where it must’ve seemed she was living a fairy tale. At dinner one evening, the daughter of the factory manager was seated next to the then-president of China. Rupert sat on the other side.”