Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng Murdoch appeared today in a Manhattan courtroom to say they had arrived at a divorce settlement. No terms of the settlement were released.
The couple have been married 14 years, and have two young daughters. The divorce is the third for Murdoch, 82, who has four adult children from his previous marriages.
The couple issued a joint statement saying, "We are pleased to announce that we have reached an amicable settlement of all matters relating to our divorce. We move forward with mutual respect and a shared interest in the health and happiness of our two daughters. We will not comment on this any further."
Michael Stutman, president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, tells ABC News that New York is a favorite venue for wealthy or prominent couples seeking to divorce. "It's favored not only for the deference it gives to prenuptial agreements, but also because it's one of only a few states where the divorce filings are not open to the public. You can't go to the county clerk's office and pull out the Murdoch divorce file. In California, it's all public record. All the juicy stuff is there."
In today's proceeding, says Stutman, the couple presented the judge with a signed and comprehensive settlement agreement for her approval.
Stutman says that in New York, in settlements where a prenup has been signed, the points of contention typically are few. "I'm not sure there would have been fertile ground for any real disagreement. The prenup tends to rule the day. That's likely why he filed here."
Forbes estimates the Murdoch family's wealth to be $13.4 billion. According to the Wall Street Journal (which Murdoch owns), the divorce will not have any effect on succession plans for the two businesses the family controls through a family trust: News Corp. and 21st Century Fox.
The Journal says that Murdoch had not just one prenup but two--plus two postnups. The fact that these agreements are in place, says the paper, means that Murdoch's divorce from Deng, 44, should be less costly for him than the $1.7 billion he reportedly had to pay second wife Anna Torv.
Did Murdoch get better at this as he went along? Were the settlements increasingly to his advantage?
"You know, I find that people who have multiple marriages generally allow hope to triumph over experience. I'm not so sure that whatever he may have learned in marriage one or two was used and applied to three," says Stutman, partner and head of family law at Mishcon de Reya New York.
Two years ago Wendi Murdoch made headlines when she protected her husband from a pie-throwing assailant during a Parliamentary hearing into phone hacking by one of his UK newspapers.
The Los Angeles Times says that as part of the settlement, Deng will receive the couple's Fifth Avenue apartment in New York, purchased eight years ago for $44 million and refurbished at the cost of another $50 million. This is the residence where the couple have raised their two children.
"It seems as if a very valuable residence has been set aside for the use of Mrs. Murdoch and the children," says Stutman. "Whether that was part of the prenuptial agreement or reached subsequently, it's the case that these parents, like all parents, are trying to do their best to minimize the disruption brought on by their divorce."
"This is their primary residence," he says, "where the children have their friends, where they know the neighborhood." It's easier for the Murdochs to take care of their children in the divorce, he says, because of the family's wealth. "But it's just the same if you're living in a tract house in Oklahoma. There are considerations that transcend economics."
- Family & Relationships
- Rupert Murdoch
- Wendi Deng Murdoch