Rupert Murdoch, Wendi Murdoch announce divorce settlement
Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng, 2008.(Peter Foley / EPA)
NEW YORK -- Rupert Murdoch and his third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, have reached a settlement in their pending divorce -- and sealed it with a kiss.
At a hearing Wednesday morning in New York state court in Manhattan, the couple told a judge they wanted to forgo a trial and proceed with a settlement they had reached.
Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The divorce proceedings are not expected to loosen Murdoch’s tight grip on his two media companies -- entertainment giant 21st Century Fox and publishing company News Corp.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reached an amicable settlement of all matters relating to our divorce,” Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng Murdoch said in a joint statement. “We move forward with mutual respect and a shared interest in the health and happiness of our two daughters. We will not comment on this any further.”
At the hearing, the estranged couple sat across from each other at a small rectangular table. Rupert Murdoch, 82, wearing a gray suit and red tie, sat at the far left. Wendi Deng Murdoch, 44, sat to the right. She wore an olive green overcoat, which she did not remove during the hearing, which lasted less than 15 minutes.
Judge Ellen Gesmer read off a list of questions regarding the agreement, first to Mrs. Murdoch, then to her husband. Both issued one-word answers indicating they had reached a settlement, reviewed the terms with their attorneys, and that they intended to comply with the agreement.
The judge told the couple they had 60 days to implement the agreement, which distributes property they jointly hold, and then the divorce would be final.
The judge praised the pair on their conduct in the case.
“I am glad you’ve been able to resolve these matters amicably,” Gesmer said. “Good luck to both of you.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Wendi Murdoch gave her soon-to-be ex-husband a small kiss on the cheek and briefly held his hand. Rupert Murdoch remained stoic. A moment later, Wendi Murdoch’s lawyer handed her her black and white cheetah purse, and they were out the door.
Fourteen years ago, the couple were married in New York Harbor on the media mogul’s glistening yacht, which is now up for sale.
Murdoch married Deng, who is 38 years younger than the mogul, a few weeks after finalizing a divorce from his second wife, Anna Torv, the mother of three of his adult children: Elisabeth, Lachlan and James.
Murdoch’s marriage to his first wife, Patricia Booker, ended in divorce in 1965. They had one daughter, Prudence.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Murdoch had two young daughters, Grace and Chloe.
Two years ago, Wendi Murdoch grabbed international headlines when she defended her husband at a Parliament committee hearing investigating News Corp.'s role in the infamous phone hacking scandal. Wearing a pink suit, Wendi Murdoch lunged at a man to swat away a foam pie that he was trying to throw in her husband’s face.
The press baron is expected to keep his California homes after the divorce is finalized. He has a mansion in Beverly Hills and last summer purchased the 16-acre Moraga Vineyards in the hills above Bel-Air for nearly $29 million. The Moraga property includes an 8,000-square-foot mansion and lush gardens.
As part of the settlement, Wendi Deng Murdoch will receive the couple’s palatial penthouse apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. They purchased the residence, once owned by Laurance Rockefeller, eight years ago for $44 million, and then spent as much as $50 million refurbishing it, according to people close to the family.
Murdoch agreed to relinquish the tony residence because he wanted his two young daughters to remain in their home, a person close to Murdoch said.
The couple had a prenuptial agreement, as well as agreements struck during the marriage that detailed how the property would be divided.
One contentious point in the negotiations reportedly was control of company shares held by the Murdoch Family Trust. Years ago, Murdoch angered his third wife by refusing to change the structure of the trust to put his young daughters on equal footing with his four older children.
Roughly 38% of the voting stock in 21st Century Fox and News Corp. is held by the Murdoch Family Trust. Murdoch said his younger daughters would be provided with economic interests equal to those of his older children but would not receive voting stock.
Company control was a key component in Murdoch’s second divorce settlement, a stipulation demanded by Anna Murdoch Mann.
Blake reported from New York and James from Los Angeles.
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