Rupert Murdoch Divorce: International Media Reacts

6:24 AM PST 06/14/2013 by Stuart Kemp , Clarence Tsui
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

News of the split lights up Chinese social media, while the mogul's News International-owned British papers play down the story.

An 82-year-old media mogul filing for divorce from his 44-year-old Chinese wife of 14 years amid questions about her friendships with some of the world's most influential men? Such news is usually manna from heaven for the British tabloid press.

Unless the mogul in question is Rupert Murdoch and the infamously caustic and aggressive tabloid happens to be The Sun, a newspaper published by News International, owned and operated by Murdoch's own News Corp.

PHOTOS: Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Through the Years

While arch rival and fellow redtop tabloid The Mirror devoted most of page 13 to the mogul's divorce filing under the headline "Murdoch, 82 dumps wife Wendi, 44,"  Murdoch's tabloid ran what is known as a "nib" in British press parlance.

Under the headline "Murdoch to Divorce" the newspaper ran 61 words on the story on page 11, with the final paragraph staying on company message, reading: "A News Corp. spokesman said the divorce will have 'zero impact' on the firm."

In Murdoch's The Times of London, the story got more play occupying nearly half of page 13 under the headline "Murdoch files for divorce from wife who leapt to his defense at hacking hearing," referencing the incident during the British Parliament's hearings over allegations of phone hacking by News Corp.'s News of the World. During Rupert Murdoch's testimony, a prankster tried to throw a pie at the media mogul and was slapped away by Wendi.

News International's other major tabloid newspaper property, News of the World, was closed two years ago in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal. 

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The Times report cited the cause of the divorce as: "the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably."

The report noted that the couple signed a prenuptial agreement in 1999 and two postnuptial agreements in 2002 and 2004.

The newspaper also cited a source at News Corp. as saying the divorce would not affect the company "because Ms. Deng and her two daughters with Mr. Murdoch -- Grace, 11, and Chloe, 9 -- have no voting rights in the company."

Outside the Murdoch-owned U.K. press, in papers The Independent, the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, the story hit the front pages, with expanded coverage inside.

All three papers referenced Wendi Murdoch (formerly Wendi Deng) and the foam pie in parliament incident.

The Guardian's page-three report ran under the headline "From Serenade to Separation: Murdoch splits from wife who slapped pie-thrower." The lengthy piece noted that both the pair's daughters were baptized on the banks of the river Jordan "at the spot where Jesus was said to have undergone the same ceremony."

The Independent's headline, "Breaking news: Murdoch divorce throws media empire into doubt" said Murdoch's decision immediately fueled speculation that "the world's largest media empire could become engulfed in a bitter inheritance battle."

In addition, the paper carried a snappy sidebar of Murdoch's "at risk" assets detailing his businesses, homes, yachts, private jets and cars.

PHOTOS: Rupert Murdoch's Family Photos

The BBC also carried the story across its television, radio and Internet news channel.

Robert Peston, the public broadcaster's business editor, added to international speculation, tweeting that the "undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping."

Reaction to news of the Murdochs' divorce has been more muted elsewhere in the world, with the exception of China, where “Murdoch and Deng divorce” (in Chinese) has become one of the top trending topics in Weibo -- China’s version of Twitter -- with the portal inundated with barbed remarks directed at Deng’s reputation as a “tiger lady.”

Much of the Chinese media coverage of the news has focused on Wendi Murdoch's background and rapid rise from mainland Chinese medical student in the 1980s to News Corp.'s first lady.

A report carried on the state-run Xinhua News Agency’s website left little to the imagination, describing her as “the legendary xiaosan” – a slang term for “the other woman” which translates as “little number three” -- a reference to Deng's previous marriage to American businessman Jake Cherry.

Cherry and his wife sponsored Deng on a study-abroad program in California. Cherry later split up with his wife and married Deng; the marriage lasted about three years.

Deng’s last post on her own verified Weibo account -- in which she described herself as “the producer of (Chinese film) The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” and has nearly 2 million followers -- was on May 29, when she uploaded two photos of Rupert Murdoch speaking at the press conference for the relaunch of News Corp.

“Rupert launching the brand new News Corp in New York today! The new News Corp!” she wrote.

While media speculation runs wild, the market reaction to the Murdoch divorce has been a disinterested shrug.

Investors seem to be agreeing with the official News Corp. line that the Rupert/Wendi split will have no impact on the company's business, despite Wendi Murdoch's occasionally prominent role in News Corp.'s Chinese operations.

Shares in News Corp were up 2.4 percent in early trading Friday. Sky Deutschland, the German pay TV group controlled by News Corp., was trading up 2.6 percent.

Shares in BSkyB, the British pay TV group in which News Corp. is the largest shareholder, were down slightly in London trading but that is after a jump earlier this week on speculation that News Corp. could make another bid for full control of the company.

Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.

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