Everything You Wanted to Know About Rupert and Wendi Murdoch (But Were Afraid to Ask)

 Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Wendi also oversaw a physical fitness regimen for herself and her husband, hiring full-time personal trainers and closely monitoring their diet. Despite a battle with prostate cancer, a newly revitalized Murdoch never missed a day of work during that period. And Murdoch seemed equally voracious in bed: “She was said to have told an associate that Rupert used Viagra but didn’t need it," Fishman writes.

The couple moved into a $7 million loft in New York’s Soho district, and soon after Rupert paid $44 million -- a then record-setting sum -- for a penthouse on Fifth Avenue that once belonged to Laurance Rockefeller. They then began snapping up residences around the globe, adding homes in Los Angeles; London; Canberra, Australia; Carmel, Calif.; and Centre Island, N.Y. Children followed -- Grace Helen Murdoch, born in 2001, and Chloe Murdoch, born two years later.

Deng never assumed a formal role at News Corp. -- Rupert told Vanity Fair in 1999 that she was too "busy working on decorating the new apartment" -- but it quickly became obvious that Wendi was deeply involved in shaping its vision, particularly in its Asian business dealings. In the mid-aughts, Deng worked closely with stepson James Murdoch to initiate $45 million in Chinese Internet investment. She was chief strategist for MySpace China and co-CEO and co-founder of Big Feet productions, the film production company that produced Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, the media's fascination with Deng proved to be Murdoch’s weak spot. That Wall Street Journal story about his wife -- the one that unearthed the dirt about the Cherrys -- incensed him so much that seven years later, when Murdoch was bidding to buy the newspaper, it was obviously still lodged under his skin like a splinter.

“If it’s a legitimate news story, Rupert would say fine,” a News Corp. executive told The New York Times in 2007. “But it wasn’t a legitimate news story, in that Wendi had no role in the company at that time. What they were doing was looking for a pretext to write a public story about a private individual.” There were rumors Rupert had other stories about his wife killed -- including a 10,000 word profile by a Forbes reporter that was to run in several Australian newspapers in which he held a partial stake.

It wasn't until 2011, however, that Wendi went from an object of fascination for media-watchers and Rupert-haters alike to a veritable household name. All eyes were on the couple that day, as Rupert testified before a House of Commons hearing in London, the frequently befuddled mogul being made to answer hard questions about his involvement in the tabloid phone-tapping scandal that had dominated international headlines for months.

Son James sat frozen and impotent as a prankster launched himself at Murdoch, cream pie in hand. But Deng, poised right behind her husband in an immaculately tailored pink jacket, cornflower-blue shirt and black skirt, launched herself with abandon at Jonnie Marbles, the dessert-wielding interloper. A former volleyball player, she put her athleticism to good use that day, and was dubbed an unlikely hero -- a rare PR coup during her husband's most vulnerable moment.

The footage went instantly viral, and the requisite parody Twitter account soon followed. Only unlike most fake Twitter accounts, this one was accidentally verified by Twitter, with hilarious consequences: When fake Wendi tweeted to Rupert, "@rupertmurdoch RUPERT!!! delete tweet!" even Rupert himself was fooled, and promptly obeyed what he thought were his wife's wishes.

And now, 14 years after they tied the knot aboard the Morning Glory, the billionaire mogul and his wife have filed for divorce. A News Corp. spokesman tells CNBC that the couple have been living separate lives for over six months. The news comes ahead of News Corp.'s planned split into two separately traded companies, dividing its entertainment and publishing empire into stand-alone entities. The couple had signed a prenup, the terms of which allow for Wendi to receive cash and property but no control of News Corp. or its subsidiaries.

Rupert, for his part, has a new mistress of sorts. The mogul tweeted last month that he was in the market for a Bel Air vineyard.

comments powered by Disqus