Murdochs parting with ‘mutual respect’
Fox chairman, wife of 14 years finalize divorce
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.