Mur­dochs part­ing with ‘mu­tual re­spect’

Fox chair­man, wife of 14 years fi­nal­ize di­vorce

The Washington Times Daily - - Television - BY JEN­NIFER PELTZ

NEW YORK Me­dia baron Ru­pert Mur­doch and his soon-to-be ex-wife said they are part­ing with “mu­tual re­spect” Wed­nes­day af­ter telling a judge they had reached a di­vorce deal.

The chair­man of News Corp. and 21st Cen­tury Fox and his wife of 14 years, Wendi Deng Mur­doch, shook hands and briefly hugged af­ter a brief pro­ceed­ing in a Man­hat­tan court. The terms of the agree­ment weren’t dis­closed in court.

“We are pleased to an­nounce that we have reached an am­i­ca­ble set­tle­ment of all mat­ters re­lat­ing to our di­vorce,” the two said in a state­ment re­leased through a pub­li­cist. “We move for­ward with mu­tual re­spect and a shared in­ter­est in the health and hap­pi­ness of our two daugh­ters.”

The di­vorce isn’t tech­ni­cally fi­nal; it will hap­pen af­ter state Supreme Court Jus­tice Ellen Ges­mer signs some yet-tobe-sub­mit­ted pa­per­work. She told the cou­ple Wed­nes­day she was “glad that you have been able to re­solve th­ese mat­ters am­i­ca­bly.”

The two an­swered Jus­tice Ges­mer’s yes-and-no ques­tions about whether they un­der­stood and ap­proved an agree­ment end­ing their mar­riage. Asked whether he was sat­is­fied with the agree­ment, Mr. Mur­doch replied in a strong voice, “Yes, your honor.”

The set­tle­ment is largely based on two prenup­tial agree­ments and two “post­nup­tial” agree­ments that mod­i­fied the orig­i­nal agree­ments, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion said Tues­day, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the mat­ter is per­sonal.

The di­vorce will end a third mar­riage for Mr. Mur­doch, 82, who got his start in his fam­ily’s news­pa­per busi­ness in his na­tive Aus­tralia and built a global me­dia con­glom­er­ate. Forbes pegged his and his fam­ily’s wealth at $13.4 bil­lion in Septem­ber.

Mr. Mur­doch’s News Corp. split this year into two com­pa­nies: the jour­nal­ism and pub­lish­ing por­tion, still called News Corp., and the more prof­itable film and TV unit, 21st Cen­tury Fox. Both are pub­licly traded and based in New York.

The di­vorce won’t af­fect con­trol of the com­pa­nies or the suc­ces­sion plan for them. Mr. Mur­doch con­trols them through a fam­ily trust that ben­e­fits his four chil­dren from pre­vi­ous mar­riages — Pru­dence, Elis­a­beth, Lach­lan and James. The lat­ter three have had ac­tive roles in the com­pa­nies.

Upon Mr. Mur­doch’s death, all four will have an equal say in what hap­pens to the roughly 38 per­cent vot­ing stock the trust holds in both com­pa­nies.

Mr. Mur­doch and Wendi Deng Mur­doch, 44, have two school-age daugh­ters, Grace and Chloe. They are ben­e­fi­cia­ries of 8.7 mil­lion non­vot­ing shares be­ing held in a sep­a­rate trust. Mrs. Mur­doch is not a share­holder, ac­cord­ing to the per­son fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.

Born in China, Mrs. Mur­doch is a Yale grad­u­ate who worked as a ju­nior ex­ec­u­tive at News Corp.’s sub­sidiary Star TV in Hong Kong, where she met her nowhus­band at a 1997 cock­tail party. She left Star TV be­fore mar­ry­ing the me­dia mogul in 1999 aboard Mr. Mur­doch’s pri­vate yacht in New York.

She pro­duced the 2011 movie “Snow Flower and the Se­cret Fan,” re­leased by News Corp.’s Fox Search­light.

Mrs. Mur­doch lit­er­ally leaped into the spot­light when she jumped up to smack a pro­tester who was throw­ing a cream pie at her hus­band dur­ing a 2011 Bri­tish par­lia­men­tary hear­ing into phone hack­ing by News Corp. news­pa­pers.

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