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Rupert Murdoch awaiting California liquor license

Media IndustryWinesABCWendi DengThe Wall Street JournalNews Corp.

Rupert Murdoch’s days of wine and roses have been delayed as the media titan’s planned purchase of the picturesque 16-acre Moraga Vineyards in the hills above Bel-Air has hit a bureaucratic snag.

The state of California has not yet issued the billionaire mogul and News Corp. chairman a liquor license, which Murdoch needs to take possession of the property.

Murdoch's liquor license is "pending," according to state records.

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California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control documents indicate that Murdoch applied for a Type 02 California Winegrowers license March 25 -- about six weeks before the 82-year-old tycoon gleefully announced on Twitter his plans to buy the vineyard.

The license approval process typically takes 45 to 90 days, ABC spokesman John Carr said.

Murdoch needs a winegrower's license to be able to manufacture, mix, flavor, color, label, sell or transport the wine.  "A winegrower's license also authorizes the person ... to conduct wine tastings ... either on or off the winegrower's premises," according to ABC rules.

Listing price for the estate was $29.5 million, but the purchase price has not been disclosed. The property, which includes an 8,000-square-foot home and gardens, is owned by Tom Jones, former chief executive of Northrop Corp., and his wife, Ruth. They acquired the estate in 1959.

"Everything looks rock-solid, and everyone is extremely happy with the transaction. We will close the deal as soon as that [liquor license] loophole gets closed," said Jim Kline, listing agent with Surterre Properties of Newport Beach.

According to the winery's website, Moraga was the first commercial winery to be bonded in Los Angeles after Prohibition ended in 1933.  In the 1930s and '40s, the property was a horse ranch owned by Victor Fleming, director of such Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classics as "Gone With the Wind" and "The Wizard of Oz."

The winery purchase is just one of several pending transactions for Murdoch.

This week, he plans to divide his corporate empire into two publicly traded companies. And this month, he filed for divorce from his third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, saying their union of 14 years had "broken down irretrievably."

Murdoch apparently was not planning on his marrige breaking up when he applied for the liquor license this spring. The application lists both Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Murdoch as managing members of Moraga Vineyards.

People close to the matter said the divorce proceedings should not derail Murdoch's planned purchase of the vineyard.

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