Rupert Murdoch Divorce: Biographers Question $1.7 Billion Settlement Figure

Murdoch and Family at the 'Broadcast News' Premiere
Ron Galella/WireImage

Murdoch, with his then-wife Anna and sons Lachlan and James at the Broadcast News premiere in New York City in 1987.

Writer Michael Wolff says that while second wife Anna had a legal stake to that much money, she instead agreed to accept less in exchange for securing her children's inheritance.

News of Rupert Murdoch's divorce filing from Wendi Deng led many reporters down the breadcrumb trail to his last high-profile breakup -- from second wife Anna in 1999 -- which was widely reported to have cost the Australian media magnate $1.7 billion.

Among those who cited the staggering figure: The New York Times, The Independent, The Telegraph and The Hollywood Reporter

But Guardian media columnist Michael Wolff, a Murdoch obsessive who penned the book The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch, calls the sum bogus and cites the research of another Murdoch expert -- Neil Chenoweth, the "world's most comprehensive follower of Murdoch's finances" -- as evidence. The two hammered out the details in a series of back-and-forth tweets, some of which are reprinted below.

"In order to have drummed up $1.7 bn in cash in 1999, nearly a quarter of his family's holdings at the time, Murdoch would have had to have sold enough of his News Corp holding to shake the value of the company and to lose the single most important thing in his life: control of News Corp," Wolff writes.

Since the divorce unfolded in California, a community property state where all assets acquired during the marriage are considered jointly owned by both spouses, Anna could have fought for the sum. But she instead negotiated a deal that gave her $100 million, with the added stipulation that her three children, plus one she raised from Rupert's previous marriage, would inherit News Corp upon his death.

When Rupert later had two daughters with Wendi, he negotiated a change to this ironclad agreement by dividing the trust into six equal parts.

Says Wolff, the four elders agreed after being paid off $150 million each.