Tony Blair strongly denied outrageous internet rumors today linking him with the divorce of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng.
The internet was awash with unfounded suggestions that the former British Prime Minister may have been romantically involved with 44-year-old Wendi Deng, who is a close friend.
The feverish speculation followed a Twitter claim by BBC business editor Robert Peston, who has close links with Murdoch empire insiders, that he had been “told that undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping – & hate myself for wanting to know what they are”.
The rumors are understood to have been emphatically rejected by Tony Blair aides as untrue – either now or in the past – and also as highly defamatory.
A spokesman for Tony Blair told the Hollywood Reporter: “If you are asking if they are having an affair, the answer is no.”
The spokesman said Tony Blair would not be making a public comment on the divorce himself.
With no explanation forthcoming from the Murdoch camp, rumors started flying within hours of the bombshell news that the media tycoon had filed for divorce in a New York court, ending his 14 years marriage to his third wife.
It is no secret that the ambitious Wendi Deng and Tony Blair are good friends. He is godfather to Grace, her older child with 82-year-old Rupert Murdoch.
Rupert Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff described Tony Blair as “one of Wendi’s first official social conquests” and suggested that the former prime minister had seen her as a key link in his efforts to woo her politically powerful husband.
Rupert Murdoch, who is estimated to be worth nearly $11 billion, cited as grounds for the divorce “that the relationship has broken down irretrievably”.
Tony Blair strongly denied outrageous internet rumors today linking him with the divorce of Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng
Insiders said the marriage has actually been strained for years. Some pointed to an article in the New York Times last year in which Wendi Deng’s friends admitted the Murdochs were living “largely separate lives” as she looked after their two children and played the socialite while her husband ran his huge media business.
They reportedly came close to splitting up as long ago as 2006 when Wendi Deng reacted with fury to Rupert Murdoch’s decision that their two young daughters, Grace and Chloe, would not have the same say over the running of the family media empire as his children from previous marriages.
Rupert Murdoch’s biographer Neil Chenoweth suggested that the media mogul had planned the divorce as long ago as February after the death of his mother two months earlier gave him extra shares in the family business that he could use to pay off his wife.
In the same month, observers of the couple at the Oscars saw a noticeable change in Wendi Deng’s behavior towards her husband.
“She was snippy with him during the Oscar weekend and she’s really impatient with him these days,” a source at the time told Deadline Hollywood, a film industry website which first reported the divorce.
Michael Wolff recalled reports that Rupert Murdoch told his oldest son, Lachlan, some years ago that he had concluded that marrying the fiery Wendi Deng was a “mistake”.
Other sources claimed the workaholic Rupert Murdoch was more concerned with the imminent division of his media empire into publishing and entertainment arms than with his split from his wife.
Although the couple have a pre-nuptial agreement which should ensure that the Murdoch business empire is not affected by the split, their settlement will have to sort out what happens to their seven homes.
They include a Manhattan apartment Rupert Murdoch bought for $45 million, a 16-acre vineyard in Los Angeles, a flat in London’s Mayfair, an 11-bedroom house in Beverly Hills and a period house outside the Forbidden City in Beijing.
The Wall Street Journal reported in 2000 that Wendi Deng helped break up the marriage of an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry, who had befriended her.
In 1988, they arranged for Wendi Deng, then aged 19, to leave China for Los Angeles to learn English.
Wendi Deng reportedly ran off with 53-year-old Jake Cherry and later married him, enabling her to get a “green card” to work in the US. The marriage soon ended after Jake Cherry discovered Wendi Deng was spending time with a man nearly half his age, said the Journal.
With a net worth of $11.2 billion, Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from Wendi Deng could be the most expensive ever.
Rupert Murdoch was married three times and his split from second wife, of 32 years, Anna Murdoch, in 1999, is currently the world’s biggest.
Anna Murdoch received $1.7 billion of his assets – including $110 million in cash, according to ABC news.
The second most expensive divorce was in 2008, when Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone settled with Slavica for $1.2 billion.
Australia-born Rupert Murdoch took residence in the U.S. in 1974 and became a naturalized American citizen in 1985, based in New York City.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng filed for their divorce at the New York State Supreme Court this morning. It is not clear which of them will move out of their Upper East Side apartment.
As well as New York being their main residence, Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng may have filed their petition in the city because it’s “a place where prenups are generally given a significant amount of presumptive validity by the courts”, Bernard Clair, an established Manhattan divorce lawyer not involved in the Murdoch case, told NBC.
The issue of such validity would arise if the agreement was challenged in court.
With a net worth of $11.2 billion, Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from Wendi Deng could be the most expensive ever
Entering into a prenup has long been an option in the U.S. and all states recognize premarital agreements through statutes or court decisions.
Such agreements have only recently become legally enforceable in Australia, since 2000; and prenups first became legally recognized in Britain in 2010.
A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract entered into before marriage which specifies property and financial distribution in the event that the marriage terminates.
In the case of the Murdochs, the education and upbringing of the children born to the couple will also be an issue, as they have two daughters together – Grace, 11 and Chloe, 9.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng had a pre-nup agreement and have held shares in trust for their children, so the divorce is unlikely to lessen the media mogul’s grip on his media empire.
Under the property distribution laws in many states, a spouse who brings a large amount of cash, property, and other financial holdings to a marriage and makes them part of the marital estate may lose much of that property to the other spouse upon divorce.
Therefore, a spouse who brings substantially more money or property to a marriage may want a premarital agreement to protect some or all of those assets if the marriage fails.
Rupert Murdoch’s marriage to his first wife, Patricia Booker, a former shop assistant and flight attendant from Melbourne, lasted from 1956 to 1967.
They had one daughter, Prudence, in 1958. It is not clear what settlement they reached.
New reports claim the reason Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years Wendi Deng is a “jaw-dropping” one.
Since news emerged of the media tycoon’s decision, Twitter has been awash with speculation about why the 82-year-old is splitting up with his third wife.
BBC financial correspondent Robert Peston, who is said to be a close friends with some key Rupert Murdoch staffers, hinted at a shocking reason writing on his Twitter page: “Undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping.”
Later several US websites began carrying a denial of one of the astonishing theories that emerged from the Twitter rumor mill and which was unsupported by any evidence.
Rupert Murdoch’s biographer, Michael Wolff, added to the speculation writing on his Twitter account: “I’m hearing the WHY, the big reveal, the scandal details, could come tomorrow.”
“I think he genuinely loved her,” Michael Wolff told the Guardian.
“Everyone is wondering what went wrong.”
The News Corp chairman and CEO married Wendi Deng, 44, in 1999 after meeting at a party in Hong Kong two years prior.
Wendi Deng is most famously known for punching a man who threw a pie at Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking scandal during a British parliamentary committee.
British media reported there is not only a pre-nuptial agreement, but also two further “post-nups” in 2002 and 2004. The divorce will not have any real effect on News Corporation.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng 1999 marriage came 17 days after his divorce from ex-wife Anna Maria Torv Murdoch Mann was finalized, which was one of the most expensive in history at $1.7 billion.
Court papers state “the relationship has been irretrievably broken for the last six months”.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng lived in a $44 million Fifth Avenue penthouse previously owned by Laurance S. Rockefeller and have an impressive portfolio of homes in Los Angeles, London, Canberra, Australia, Carmel, California, and Centre Island, New York.
The Murdochs would have celebrated their fourteenth wedding anniversary in less than a fortnight.
A source told the Mail: “This divorce is no surprise, it’s been on the cards for a while. Wendi and Rupert have been living separate lives. She’s a New York fixture and is interested in her own career.”
Ira E. Garr of the law firm Garr Silpe is representing Rupert Murdoch in the divorce. He has represented Ivana Trump in the past.
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, who married on a private yacht in 1999, have two children, Grace, 11, and Chloe, 9, to whom Wendi Deng admits to being a disciplinarian mother.
According to the Guardian, the pair has filed for joint custody of their children.
The reason Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from Wendi Deng is reported to be jaw-dropping
It appears also that Wendi Deng has no voting stock in News Corp.
Though their two daughters have financial shares in the family trust, they do not have voting shares.
Rupert Murdoch’s older children by his previous wives have the holding rights. He and second wife Anna had three children – Lachlan, James and Elisabeth.
The couple are said to have clashed over this in 2006 after Rupert Murdoch said in an interview that Grace and Chloe would be on a level footing in terms of the family’s economic trust with his children from his previous marriages, but they would not have the same voting rights.
They are said to have eventually come to a more acceptable agreement.
In 2012, Wendi Deng was profiled in a New York Times story which claimed the couple were leading “largely separate lives and sleeping in separate bedrooms”, a far cry from the show of unity just one year earlier when Deng leaped to the defense of her husband during a grueling question and answering session in British Parliament, punching a protestor who tried to throw a cream pie in his face.
Wendi Deng’s actions seemed to give their marriage legitimacy, as she was previously thought to merely be a “gold-digger” and “trophy wife”.
Rupert Murdoch’s net worth was listed at $11.2 billion by Forbes in March, ranking him 33rd on the U.S. billionaire’s list.
His last divorce, from Scottish-born Anna Murdoch, after 32 years of marriage, cost him £1 billion ($1.6 billion).
However, Wendi Deng may be able to demand a larger settlement because she has been actively involved in the Murdoch business in China, where she is chief of strategy for its social networking site MySpace.
The divorce papers were filed at the New York state supreme court in Manhattan yesterday morning.
Wendi Deng was credited with rejuvenating the 82-year-old News Corporation founder, chairman and CEO, transforming his wardrobe and introducing him to a new group of younger friends in the new media world, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
She is reportedly the daughter of a factory director who grew up in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou in 1968.
Wendi Deng left for the U.S. when she was 19-years-old to study and worked in a Chinese restaurant in California before going on to graduate from Yale University in 1996.
While studying at a medical college, she met an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry, who had been temporarily relocated to the country to work on a factory.
Wendi Deng learned English from the couple and they ultimately sponsored her to travel to the US when she was 19 to take classes at California State University.
But Joyce Cherry soon learned Wendi Deng was having an affair with Jake Cherry, who was three decades her senior, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2000.
Joyce Cherry ordered the girl out of her home and Jake Cherry followed closely behind. He divorced his wife and married Wendi Deng, who was 22.
But they too divorced after he learned Wendi Deng was spending time with a man named David Wolf.
Soon after, Wendi Deng was employed as an intern by Star TV, News Corp’s Asian satellite-television operation in Hong Kong, where she met Rupert Murdoch during one of his visits.
Wendi Deng approached Rupert Murdoch and asked: “Why is your China strategy so bad?”
After the meeting, they discussed media and business, the New York Times reported.
In a biography, Rupert Murdoch explained that he met Wendi Deng “casually once or twice” during meetings at Star TV. Their first date was in June 1998 in London, when she traveled to the city with colleagues from Star.
At News Corp, Wendi Deng was involved in the conglomerate’s Chinese interests and Internet and film ventures, and she produced the 2011 feature Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for Fox Searchlight pictures. This was largely eclipsed when the phone-hacking scandal emerged.
Wendi Deng was described by friends in a New York Timesarticle last year like someone who is a world-class networker, collecting powerful friends and brokering connections.
She would host annual dinner parties with powerful women, hosts book parties for friends, and regularly holds get-togethers.
The same article, from June 2012, said the Murdochs had grown to live largely separate lives, with Wendi Deng taking the girls to piano lessons and attending red-carpet galas, and Rupert Murdoch dealing with the phone-hacking scandal that was unfolding in Britain at the time.
The filing comes just days before the split of News Corp into two companies, one for its entertainment assets and the other for its publishing business.
It was not immediately clear whether the divorce and the company split were connected in any way, though analysts said the end of the Murdochs’ marriage was unlikely to have an effect on the corporate separation.
“I doubt it has a substantial impact on the spin,” said Gabelli & Co. analyst Brett Harriss.
“Given that it’s his third wife, I see it unlikely that he didn’t plan for this contingency.”
News Corp shares were unchanged in midday trading.
Rupert Murdoch controls 40% of the voting shares of News Corp through a separate family trust.
Wendi Deng and Rupert Murdoch’s children are having shares currently worth around $270 million.
Rupert Murdoch handed each of his six children $100 million in shares in February 2007 and another $60 million nine months later.