Only two years after Wendi Deng leapt up to punch an activist smashing a pie into Rupert Murdoch during a parliamentary hearing, Murdoch has filed for divorce from Deng, his wife since 1999 and his third overall. Though the news may come as a surprise to some, those who have been paying attention have probably noticed that the couple have been drifting apart for some time now—and their 38-year age difference seems to be the least of their concerns.
Murdoch married Deng only 17 days after his divorce from his previous wife—a $1.7 billion undertaking—became final. At the time News Corp crafted a fake history to say that Deng and Murdoch had met after Murdoch had officially separated from his wife in 1998. Actually they'd met months earlier, at a media conference in Hong Kong where Deng charmed Murdoch with serious talk about News Corp's strategy in China. It was love at first power lunch, so to speak, but the honeymoon couldn't last forever.
In 2008, the same year rumors emerged saying Deng was cheating on Murdoch with MySpace co-founder Chris DeWolfe, Murdoch lost his wedding ring at the swanky Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho. It was the embodiment of a union that had begun to go astray.
In a lengthy dissection of Deng and her marriage last year, the New York Times reported that Deng was "enraged" to discover that "while Grace and Chloe, his daughters with Wendi, would have an equal economic interest in the family’s trust, they would not have the same voting rights as his children from his previous marriages..." Murdoch inelegantly broke that news in a TV interview with Charlie Rose in 2006.
Deng, famous for her lack of "brain-to-mouth filter," according to the Times, was supposedly one of the few people who would call Murdoch on his bullshit, and she threatened to leave him over Grace and Chloe's weakened voting privileges. The two eventually worked it out, but they weren't comfortable for long.
Just as Deng was getting more famous and her network of friends was expanding to include more of the world's ultra-wealthy power mob, News Corp became ensnared in a phone-hacking scandal that severely injured the reputations of dozens of News Corp employees, including James Murdoch, the former heir apparent of his father's empire. Deng's ascending star apparently led to grumbling at News Corp that she may have been in line to run the company one day. "In only the most hushed and off-the-record conversations do people close to the company ask: could Wendi take over one day?" wrote the Times last year.
Fears of Deng trying to perform a power grab at News Corp appeared to be mostly scuttlebutt; Deng busied herself with her own projects, like film production (albeit films released in America by Fox Searchlight) and investment in the art startup Art.sy. But the rumors went along with years of attacks on Deng as a gold-digging arriviste, a reputation that had publicly hounded her at least since 2000. That's the year the Wall Street Journal, not yet a News Corp entity, reported that Deng had once married an American businessman who'd brought her from China to live with his wife and children in the states under the assumption she would just study English. The businessman, Jake Cherry, ended up divorcing his wife in 1990 and marrying Deng, who divorced him less than three years later.
The Journal all but said outright that Deng had used Cherry to get U.S. citizenship:
Divorce records filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court show that the Cherry-Deng marriage lasted two years and seven months. That was seven months longer than what was required for Ms. Deng to obtain a "green card," allowing her permanently to live and work in the U.S. as a resident alien. Mr. Cherry says he and Ms. Deng actually lived together for "four to five months, at the most." They haven't spoken since 1996, he adds.
Murdoch's divorce filings from Deng say "the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably," according to New York Times media reporter Amy Chozick. Chozick added that News Corp had confirmed the divorce, saying, "Wendi has been informed."