After 14 years of marriage, News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng are splitting up. The media mogul filed his divorce papers with the New York State Supreme Court Thursday morning. The reasons for the breakup are unclear but according to Deadline Hollywood, which first reported the story, rumors of trouble had swirled for months. Spokesman Steven Rubenstein said that the marriage had been “irretrievably broken” for the last six months.
The marriage had long been the subject of gossip and speculation, owing in part to the difference in age and culture between the two. Mr. Murdoch, whose net worth is estimated at $11.2 billion, is 82 years old and 38 years older than his wife. Ms. Deng last attracted public attention in 2011 when she assaulted an activist who attempted to pie her husband while he was answering questions in front of the British Parliament regarding his role in that country’s phone-hacking scandal.
However, there is much more to Wendi Deng’s life than one YouTube video. She was born December 8, 1968 in China’s Shandong province. Her original name, Deng Wenge, translates as “Cultural Revolution.” Given that country’s circumstances at the time, her family was relatively wealthy, her father having been president of a factory, People’s Machinery Works.
In 1987, her life changed when while studying medicine in Guangzhou, she met UNICEF executive Jake Cherry. Cherry’s wife Joyce began teaching Deng English, and in 1988, the couple sponsored Deng to come study in the United States on a student visa. She attended Cal State Northridge, where she studied economics and was reportedly near the top of her class. In 1990 Jake Cherry left his wife and married Deng after the two had been discovered by Mrs. Cherry to have been having an affair. A couple years later (and four months after receiving her green card), Deng divorced Cherry and went on to pursue her MBA at Yale. One of her professors would later comment, “In 25 years of teaching, Wendi was the best student I ever had. Not only did she have a brilliant brain, she knew how to exploit her own connections.”
Deng met Murdoch in 1997 when she was a 29-year-old junior executive at Hong Kong based News Corp subsidiary Star TV. It was her first job out of business school, where she had risen rapidly through the ranks through a combination of brains and charm. At that time, Murdoch was a 66-year-old, married CEO and was in town as part of the festivities surrounding the handover of Hong Kong to China. The two hit it off immediately and were married two years later, just weeks after Murdoch ended his marriage of 30 years to his second wife, Anna.
While Ms. Deng was an adviser on the company's Chinese business interests and an occasional interpreter, the divorce is not likely to have a great impact on the operations of the company, as she was not an employee and owns no stock. The couple reportedly had a prenuptial agreement, which awards Ms. Deng cash and property but no corporate control.