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Rupert Murdoch Divorce: The Financial Breakdown (Analysis)

Keith Urban's and Nicole Kidman's Wedding
Paul McConnell/Getty Images

Details of the mogul's prenup with Wendi Deng are unknown, but Murdoch's 1999 divorce entailed a whopping $1.7 billion settlement.

Unlike what could be a very lucrative upcoming split of News Corp. into two companies, company founder Rupert Murdoch’s announced split from third wife Wendi Deng ought to cost the media mogul plenty of money. Exactly how much is yet to be determined.

Murdoch is worth $11.2 billion and is No. 91 on the Forbes list of wealthiest people in the world, and he reportedly has a prenuptial agreement with Deng, who became Murdoch’s third wife in 1999 after he divorced Anna Maria Torv.

Murdoch’s prenuptial agreement with Deng remains a secret so far, but a peek into his divorce with Torv offers clues as to what Deng might be entitled to. Murdoch was married to Torv for 32 years and had three children with her -- Elisabeth, Lachlan and James -- and after sorting through the terms of the prenuptial, Torv reportedly ended up with $1.7 billion, including $100 million in cash.

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Deng, who reportedly twice signed amendments to her original prenuptial agreement, was married to Murdoch for less than half the number of years Torv was married to him and has only two children with him, both daughters, though they are 11 and 9, which suggests the billionaire could be making child-support payments.

The children also each have financial interest in a trust containing News Corp. stock that is equal to the stake held by Lachlan, James, Elisabeth and Prudence (Murdoch’s daughter from his first marriage), though the two minor children have no voting rights, nor will they when they become adults, according to reports. About seven years ago, Deng unsuccessfully lobbied for her daughters to get voting rights, but Murdoch and the older children shot down the plan.

Murdoch splitting from Deng, though, will have little if any impact on News Corp. or its shareholders, given that Deng had no official role at the $73.7 billion media conglomerate.

“I can’t imagine Murdoch didn’t plan well. I suppose if the settlement included $1 billion in News Corp. shares it could lead to some selling pressure over time if Deng wanted out,” speculated Steve Birenberg of Northlake Capital Management. “Or, if she got shares of the voting stock, it could complicate matters were anything requiring shareholder approval to come up. But again, I have to believe that was all accounted for in a prenup.”

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While Deng, 44, and Murdoch, 82, have allegedly been separated for several months, and sources say Murdoch cited in legal papers an “irretrievable breakdown” in their marriage, some observers were speculating Thursday that Murdoch might be generous to Deng. She did, after all, very publicly and physically protect her husband in 2011 when a would-be pie-thrower attacked him at a British parliamentary hearing where he was discussing a News of the World phone-hacking scandal, and Murdoch was reportedly impressed with his wife's efforts.

It’s also unknown which of the two will be moving out of the apartment they had shared in New York’s Upper East Side. The Murdochs also have homes in Beverly Hills, London, Beijing, Cavan in South Australia and Carmel in California.

Deng’s social circle includes David Geffen, Nicole Kidman and Bono, according to a New York Times profile. She also co-produced a 2011 movie, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, with Florence Sloan, wife of former MGM chief Harry Sloan.

E-mail: Paul.Bond@THR.com