(Corrects to remove reference to age Wendi Murdoch arrived in U.S. in 10th paragraph of story published June 14.)
Rupert Murdoch, the 82-year-old billionaire chairman of News Corp., filed for divorce from his third wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch, who famously defended him from a pie-hurling assailant.
The divorce filing said the “relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably,” said Steven Rubenstein, a spokesman for Murdoch with Rubenstein Communications, in a telephone interview. Wendi Murdoch couldn’t be reached for comment.
The couple has a prenuptial agreement, said a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about it. Ira E. Garr, an attorney with Garr Silpe PC representing Murdoch, didn’t return telephone and e-mail messages seeking comment on the filing.
Wendi Murdoch, 37 years younger than her husband, made headlines in 2011 for physically defending him when he gave testimony at a Parliament hearing over a hacking scandal at his U.K. newspapers. She leapt up and lunged at a man who had tried to throw a pie in Murdoch’s face.
The Murdochs, who have two daughters, were married in 1999, weeks after Rupert Murdoch’s divorce from his previous wife, Anna. His first marriage, to Patricia Booker, ended in 1965. Two years later, he married a reporter at one of his newspapers, Anna Torv, and had three children, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, all of whom have figured prominently at one point in the workings of his company.
Rupert Murdoch’s net worth is $12.1 billion, making him the world’s 79th-richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. News Corp. rose 2.4 percent to $31.68 at yesterday’s close in New York.
His children with his current wife, Grace and Chloe, hold an undisclosed number of Class B voting shares in News Corp. A separate trust manages 8.7 million non-voting Class A shares on behalf of the children, according to filings dating back to at least 2007. Those non-voting shares were worth about $276 million as of yesterday’s close.
Murdoch’s prenuptial agreement is likely to be iron-clad, and would address the issue of temporary support for Wendi Murdoch while the divorce is pending, said Raoul Felder, a divorce attorney whose clients have included former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giulianiand the ex-spouses of boxer Mike Tyson and actress Elizabeth Taylor.
“I’m sure he was very generous,” Felder said. “If he doesn’t have a prenup, he would have to see a psychiatrist and not a lawyer.”
Wendi, 44, met Rupert when she was a junior executive at his Star TV division in Hong Kong. She attended California State University at Northridge and graduated from Yale University’s graduate business program before joining News Corp.
Her interest in film led her to produce “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” which was distributed by News Corp.’s Fox Searchlight Pictures in 2011. She is a trustee of the American Film Institute and an investor in Artsy, a digital-arts startup, according to the company’s website.
Deadline Hollywood earlier reported on the divorce filing. Such documents aren’t available to the public under New York state law.
Rupert Murdoch’s divorce coincides with the breakup of his 60-year-old media empire. Earlier this week News Corp. investors approved a plan to split the company into entertainment and publishing entities. Murdoch agreed to the breakup last year under shareholder pressure to separate the slower-growth newspaper assets from its TV and movie properties.
After the June 28 split, the publishing group will inherit the News Corp. name, while the entertainment unit will be called 21st Century Fox. As part of the transition, News Corp. announced yesterday that Chief Financial Officer David DeVoe will retire later this month, to be replaced by John Nallen.