Certain parts of the world reeled yesterday upon finding out that Rupert and Wendi Murdoch are getting a divorce. What happened? They seemed so happy, so perfect for one another. But despite their seeming wedded bliss, there were apparently problems. What sort of problems? Well that's what everyone is speculating about.
The Hollywood Reporter has weighed in on the matter, with a headline saying that Wendi was "blindsided" by the divorce filing. The actual article, though, speaks of a relatively longstanding distance between Rupert and Wendi, so it maybe wasn't as much of a surprise as the headline implies. The article then goes into detail about the theory that the marriage deteriorated because of Wendi's "socializing and friendships with a series of men." Which, read in a certain way, could be construed as more than a little sexist. But! There have been rumors for some years now that Wendi has gotten a bit too friendly with various movers and shakers. And they are some pretty bold-faced names.
The boldest one is former British PM Tony Blair, a relationship written about by Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff, who said that Blair was one of Wendi's "first official social conquests." Wolff has a vaguely dishy Guardian piece about the split up at the moment, but he doesn't mention anything about Blair or the other rumored affairs. Though maybe "affair" is too strong a word — the implication, at least with the Blair thing, seems more to be that she had a too-cozy working relationship with him, not necessarily a romantic one. For his part, a spokesperson for Blair, who we should add is married to British barrister Cherie Blair, issued a strong denial to THR: "If you are asking if they are having an affair, the answer is no."
In Google chairman Eric Schmidt's case, the rumors are more pointedly romantic. Schmidt, who has an estranged wife named Wendy, is merely "said to be friends with Wendi Murdoch" according to THR, but the article then goes on to discuss Schmidt's martial status, reporter Kim Masters going so far as to contact a source close to Schmidt about the rumored affair. The source said it's "doubtful" that the two had any sort of liaisons. Schmidt is believed to be an investor in Wendi's startup art dealing site Artsy, so again it's possible that they simply had a close working relationship.
The same goes for the third potential suitor, MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe. When Rupert's News Corp. bought MySpace in 2008 for a boatload of poorly spent money, Wendi went to work for the company, consulting with them about the Chinese market. THR dates the Wendi/Chris affair rumors back to 2008, right when MySpace was purchased and attention on the company, and News Corp.'s ownership of the company, was at its height. So this seems like, well, yet another example of a woman working with a man in a professional capacity and that turning into rumors of something illicit. All because she's a woman married to a man who's some 38 years her senior. Love is love, people! Even if it eventually ends in a swirl of hysterica and speculation.
The speculation will likely continue for some time. The Daily Beast points us to a tweet from BBC reporter Robert Peston saying that "the undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping." He doesn't know what they are, but he's heard they're crazy. All of this breathless gossiping is done, of course, under the guise of business news. Deadline's Nikki Finke carefully explains that "Deadline doesn’t cover Hollywood’s personal lives, but this split is notable only because of its possible impact on the News Corp split or the Murdoch family succession vis a vis its corporate holdings." Aha, right. And what will happen with regard to the business? Well there are some questions about the family trust and various stakes owned by Wendi and Murdoch's two daughters, who were shut out of the Murdoch family trust by Rupert after his adult children protested. So it's a lot of dynastic power struggle stuff that could very well not have much effect on the day-to-day business of News Corp. and its many subsidiaries. (Have you checked to see if you are owned by News Corp. lately? The answer might surprise you!)
I'm not expert on Rupert Murdoch or marriage or anything really, but from what I've read it seems like people are sniffing out reasons for a divorce that was, honestly, inevitable. We are talking about the soon-to-be thrice-divorced father of a daughter ten years older than his most recent wife. Whether there are "jaw-dropping" details yet to emerge or not, I don't think anyone should be surprised that these two people, this titan of capitalism and his much younger but no less ambitious bride, have hit the skids. Yes Rupert had a famously expensive divorce from his second wife Anna, something to the tune of over a billion dollars, so speculation is of course expected with this latest split. But that it's happening at all probably shouldn't be flipping any wigs. I mean, it's Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng, for crying out loud. What did we expect?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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