Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng married in 1999
She famously defended her media mogul husband from a pie-thrower
Murdoch is filing for divorce from Deng, a Murdoch spokesman confirmed Thursday
That news has sparked furious activity on social media and in tabloids
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, the tweet fittingly declared, “goes from tabloid boss to tabloid prey.”
That’s because the head of the powerful News Corp empire has declared his intention to split from his younger wife Wendi Deng
After the news emerged, the news-ravenous Twitterverse, gossip-hungry tabloids and every other blog started soaking up the latest celebrity divorce.
Inquiring minds are dying to know why this power pair are getting unhitched. The rumor mill is grinding and the whiff of scandal and the hint of sleaze beckon. People who’ve got the answers aren’t tattling.
The New York Daily News said the reasons are “allegedly shocking.” Its headline shouted – “‘Jaw-dropping’!”
For now, people are having fun poking fun. One blogger quipped, “Wendi Deng to divorce Rupert Murdoch after he drops from #98 to #105 on rich list.”
Another tweet observed that “someone’s #estateplan will be changing … ”
Murdoch is 82 and Deng is 44, so the May-December age difference is duly noted: “If Deng starts dating a 60-sumpn billionaire, he’ll still be 20 yrs younger than Rupert.”
Deng made headlines two years ago for forcefully defending Murdoch from a pie-throwing intruder in Britain’s Parliament. That was Wendi Deng Murdoch’s “greatest moment,” one wit said.
She’s not just his wife; she’s his “pie-deflecting” wife.
“If a woman did karate chops for me, @rupertmurdoch, I’d never let her go bro,” one tweeter said. Another said, “I bet rupert Murdoch wife wishes now she had let that custard pie smack him in the face.”
The Chinese-born, Yale-educated Deng was very accomplished in her own right pre-Murdoch, even though critics jabbed her as a “gold digger” through her marriage to the media mogul.
Her husband runs one of the most powerful media conglomerates in the world – one that includes 20th Century Fox, Fox television (including Fox News and FX), Sky news service, HarperCollins publishing and many newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, Britain’s Times and several publications in his native Australia.
But Deng had stayed largely out of the public eye until July 2011. She was sitting behind Murdoch in Parliament in London, while he testified about his company’s involvement in a phone-hacking scandal that rocked Britain.
Comedian Jonnie Marbles came at Murdoch with a shaving-foam pie. Deng leaped into action, lunging at Marbles and smashing his hand with her own.
“Mr. Murdoch,” said parliamentarian Tom Watson, who minutes earlier had been particularly critical of the media titan, “your wife has a pretty good left hook.”
Social media erupted in response to what soon became known as “the slap heard round the world” and earned her the sobriquet “tiger wife.” The reaction was particularly strong on Chinese microblogs, where many hailed Deng’s reaction as a moment of pride for Asian women.
Murdoch and Deng met at a Hong Kong cocktail party shortly after her graduation from Yale. Deng then went on to work at Star TV, a Hong Kong-based satellite television service that’s under Murdoch’s corporate umbrella.
In a 2011 interview with his wife on CCTV, Murdoch recalled her interpreting for him while he toured the Chinese mainland. A fervent pursuit followed, though Deng didn’t necessarily return all his affection.
“I fell in love with her, and I asked her. She said no, and it took a long time to persuade her,” Murdoch said.
Their 1999 wedding occurred shortly after Murdoch filed for divorce from his second wife, Anna Torv Murdoch. (Anna Torv wed Murdoch in 1967, the same year he divorced his first wife and one year before Deng was born, according to multiple reports.)
Shortly after the wedding, Murdoch announced his new wife would step down from her executive role at a News Corp. subsidiary in Hong Kong. He described her as “busy working on decorating the new apartment.”
A Wall Street Journal profile, published in 2000, hinted she didn’t entirely leave the business world. Deng frequently accompanied her husband and stepson to meetings with high-ranking Chinese officials, where she’d sometimes intervene “to smooth over potentially awkward situations,” according to that report.
Over the past 12 years, she gave birth to and raised two girls, Grace and Chloe. (Murdoch has four other children from his two previous marriages, some of whom hold prominent posts at News Corp.)
Her Yale profile notes she’s a co-founder of Big Feet Productions, an independent studio in East London that makes applications and games for Apple operating systems according to its website. And in 2011, she produced, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” a film set in 19th century China centered on two girls who circumvent cultural restrictions on females.
A divorce would end her union to Rupert Murdoch, and perhaps set up a battle over how much of his fortune – which Forbes recently estimated at $11.2 billion – she and her children will receive. This potential showdown comes at a tenuous time for News Corp., which recently approved a plan to split its operations into two publicly traded companies.
Murdoch, the existing company’s largest shareholder, is set to become chairman of the two new companies.
It was not immediately known if Deng and Murdoch signed a prenuptial agreement prior to their wedding, and if so where they filed it. Michael Stutman, president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, said he’d expect they did so in New York – a state with a tendency to enforce terms of such agreements.
“New York will apply those terms so long as they are not grossly unfair or unconscionable,” Stutman said. “The same cannot be said about every other country in the world.”
One altruist actually tweeted: “Shouldn’t we respect Rupert Murdoch’s right to privacy during this difficult time?”
Good luck with that! The “tabloid boss” is now “tabloid prey.”