News Corp’s business, as well as the Murdoch family’s voting control of the company, is not expected to be impacted by the divorce of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Murdoch.
Murdoch, along with his four children from two previous marriages — Prudence, Elizabeth, Lachlan and James, the latter three of which have board or operating roles at the company — control News Corp with about 40% of its voting rights. Deng and the two children she has with Murdoch, Grace and Chloe, have no voting rights and thus no say in News Corp’s business operations. That structure will not be altered as a result of the divorce, sources familiar with the situation said.
Valued at $72.3 billion, News Corp is actually planning to split on June 28, with its cable and film operations to be housed in a new company called 21st Century Fox and its publishing assets collected under the News Corp umbrella.
With regards to Murdoch’s personal fortune, sources said Deng is bound by a pre-nuptial agreement, the terms of which could not be learned. According to Forbes, Murdoch was worth $11.2 billion as of March, ranking him 91st on its worldwide billionaires list.
Murdoch, the Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corp,Thursday filed for a divorce from Deng after 14 years of marriage. The filing, made in New York Supreme Court, claims that the marriage had been irretrievably broken for more than six months.
The decision, which caught many media and Murdoch observers flat-footed, comes roughly two years after Deng rose to international prominence by valiantly defending her husband from an observer who attempted to throw a pie in Murdoch’s face during testimony over phone-hacking charges on the part of News Corp employees in front of the British Parliament.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the couple “had been growing apart for a while.” Part of that is owed to the fact that News Corp’s operations — which span from Australia and China to London and New York — require Murdoch to travel and live all over the world. One source said the couple were rarely together as a result.
Murdoch, 82, is 38 years older than Deng, who is 44. But rather than age, a wider disconnect between the two has always been in personal styles and interests. Murdoch is a political and corporate animal. Deng skews more towards fashion and celebrity. Though he owns one of the largest film studios in Hollywood, 20th Century Fox, Murdoch is known to despise the movie business. Deng, by contrast, has lately been fashioning herself as a film producer — last year she co-produced “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” with the wife of former Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio boss Harry Sloan.
Despite a chorus of dissent, including from his own children, Murdoch and Deng for over a decade seemed to crystalize the idea that opposites could not only attract, but also thrive. Murdoch started working out and got a haircut and dye job that for a time was the talk of the media industry.
For her part, Deng seemed to relish the rarified air that came with being a part of Murdoch’s world. She would frequently be seen at lunch or at the bar at Allen & Co’s annual Sun Valley conference with the wives of Tom Freston, Barry Diller, Sergey Brin and other moguls.
If cracks in their relationship had emerged, a New York Times article published almost exactly one year ago Thursday split them wide open. The piece, which ran under the headline “Declaration of Independence,” detailed the couple’s courtship, Deng’s humble beginnings, the tangled family relationships, and a latent sense of dissatisfaction with how the marriage was evolving.
In hindsight, that story now reads like a coda for what was to come, which could be why one of the sources said no one inside News Corp was shocked to hear about the separation.
“Things between them haven’t been right for quite some time,” this source said. “They have been drifting.”