Oh what fun we’ve had at playing guessing games about why on Thursday Rupert Murdoch filed to divorce Wendi Deng, his wife since 1999.
In the papers submitted to New York’s supreme court, the 82 year-old chairman of the multi-national media organisation, News Corporation, said his marriage to his 44-year-old third wife had “broken down irretrievably”. That of course doesn’t satisfy any curiosity at what went wrong in their personal relationship.
The 39-year-old age gap first comes to mind. But there are other possibilities.
Tony Blair’s name was immediately flung into the bag of third party interference. But rumours that UK’s former prime minister and the godfather of the couple’s young daughters is in love with his friend, Deng, were quickly denied.
Maybe, just maybe, Murdoch has a bespectacled eye on Rebekah Brooks his former News International chief executive who resigned during the 2011 newspaper phone-hacking scandal. Deng is known to hate her. But, according to the Huffington Post, the odds are in favour of Deng’s grandmother becoming Murdoch’s 4th wife, not the 44-year-old Brooks.
It’s unlikely Deng, the ambitious, determined Chinese immigrant found Murdoch’s business practices distasteful. Her public display of wifely support made headlines during that scandal when she hit a protestor about to throw a cream pie at Murdoch as he testified to a UK parliamentary committee. Surely this is proof enough of her full support?
Money has to be an issue in a marriage of this kind. But how it plays out in their home is not clear. We do know that Murdoch and his four children from his first marriages have kept control of the family fortunes. Deng has no equity in the company, and no voting rights. However, Deng has insisted that her daughters receive voting rights in the family trust as adults. We expect that the prenuptial agreement she signed before their marriage in 1999, should determine how much of Murdoch’s $11 billion fortune Deng will get. But we also expect a spectacular fight.
That leaves us to speculate about whether the 39 year age gap is the reason for the divorce. A super-wealthy, powerful, 82-year-old, who according to the glamorous Deng, doesn’t need Viagra, should be a fairly good bet as a husband. There is very little evidence to show that a wide age gap between partners increases the risk of divorce. Oona O’Neill who was 36 years younger than her husband the silent-film legend Charlie Chaplin said in support of their age difference: “He has made me mature, and I keep him young”.
It’s more likely that Deng and Murdoch are two nasty people incapable of niceness in their marriage. A former nanny said that everyone who worked for Deng hated her and is scared of her. The Daily Telegraph quotes the nanny as saying, Deng “curses Rupert all the time. A lot of f-words. She is always yelling, crying.”
Since the phone-hacking scandal broke, we’ve seen hundreds of images of the grim-faced Murdoch. That grimness would turn anybody off loving him.
Whatever the reasons, clearly the world is in line for a great soap-opera of a divorce. Robert Peston, the BBC’s business editor, tweeted last week: “Am also told that the undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping.”
We can’t wait to know.