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The reason? A sealed document within the filing reveals “the relationship between the husband and wife has broken down irretrievably,” according to the Associated Press. The couple have reportedly been living separate lives for at least six months.
The news comes just days after News Corp. shareholders approved a plan to split the company into 21st Century Fox, which will hold the film and most TV businesses, and a new News Corp., home to newspapers, books, education services and Australian TV channels. That split is set for June 28.
The two have been married since 1999. The News Corp. chairman met Wendi Deng, 38 years his junior, at a party when she was an intern at the company’s Star TV in Hong Kong. The couple later wed on a yacht in New York Harbor. Now 82 years old, the senior Murdoch has two daughters (aged 11 and 9) with the 44-year-old Wendi. The couple are believed to have filed for joint custody of their children, but there are no details of any settlement, according to The Guardian. The divorce petition was filed today in New York Supreme Court.
Murdoch is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of more than $11 billion. He’s ranked as the 91st richest person alive. After News Corp. splits into two entities later this year, he’s scheduled to earn about $28 million. Murdoch and Deng reportedly signed a prenuptial agreement, and two further agreements in 2002 and 2004.
In 2000, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wendi — who held no formal News Corp. position at the time, having resigned her role at Star TV — was key to the company’s strategy in Asia. People within News Corp., and outsiders involved in the Chinese Internet and media industries, later told The Guardian that Deng helped identify potential investments for her husband’s company and acted as his liaison and translator in China.
(The Journal story ruffled Murdoch’s feathers, as The New York Times noted when Murdoch announced the ultimately successful bid to purchase the Journal and parent Dow Jones in 2007.)
Murdoch married Wendi after divorcing his previous wife, Anna, in 1999. That split reportedly cost him $1.7 billion, in what was called at the time the “most expensive” divorce settlement in history. Before 32 years of marriage to Anna, which produced children Lachlan, James and Elisabeth, there was also an 11-year marriage to his first wife, Patricia.
In 2006, Murdoch broke some family news on Charlie Rose, divulging that while daughters Grace and Chloe would have an equal economic interest in the family’s trust, they would not have the same voting rights as his children from his previous marriages, Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James. The news reportedly “enraged” Wendi: “He became this typical husband whose wife threatened to leave him,” a source told the New York Times.
Wendi helped produce the 2011 film Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, distributed by News Corp.’s Fox Searchlight. That year, she made headlines during the U.K. parliament’s held hearings over allegations of phone hacking by News Corp.’s News of the World. During Rupert’s testimony, a prankster tried to throw a pie at the media mogul and was slapped by Wendi.
Later, Wendi again made news when someone on Twitter registered under her name, with posts including “Maybe Brits have too many holidays for a broke country.” The once-verified account turned out to be a hoax.
Rupert is being represented by attorney Ira Garr in the divorce.
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