Wendi Deng Murdoch hired a new attorney, New York lawyer William D. Zabel, to negotiate her divorce from News Corp. billionaire Rupert Murdoch, a person familiar with the matter said.
Zabel, of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, has represented women in high-profile divorces including that of former General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch. Zabel didn’t respond today to phone and e-mail messages after regular business hours seeking comment on the Murdoch case.
Rupert Murdoch, 82, who is ranked 90th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index with a net worth of $11.7 billion, in June filed for divorce from his third wife in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, saying their relationship “has broken down irretrievably.”
The hiring of Zabel to replace Pamela M. Sloan of Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan LLP, who helped Wendi Murdoch negotiate a prenuptial agreement for her 1999 wedding, was first reported earlier by the New York Times. Sloan didn’t respond to a voice-mail message after regular business hours seeking comment.
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 some point in the workings of his company.
His children with Wendi Murdoch, 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.
Wendi Murdoch, 44, attended California State University at Northridge and graduated from Yale University’s graduate business program before joining News Corp. She met the News Corp. chairman when she was a junior executive at his Star TV division in Hong Kong.
The divorce follows the split of News Corp. into two separate units -- Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., the media and entertainment division, and News Corp., the publishing division.
The case is Murdoch v. Murdoch, 307226/2013, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan.)