NEW YORK, N.Y. – Media baron Rupert Murdoch and his soon-to-be-ex-wife said they were parting with “mutual respect” Wednesday after telling a judge they had reached a divorce deal.
The chairman of News Corp. and 21st Century Fox and his wife of 14 years, Wendi Deng Murdoch, shook hands and briefly hugged after a brief proceeding in a Manhattan court.
“We are pleased to announce that we have reached an amicable settlement of all matters relating to our divorce,” the two said in a statement released through a publicist. “We move forward with mutual respect and a shared interest in the health and happiness of our two daughters.”
The terms of the agreement weren’t disclosed in court, but a person familiar with the settlement said Wendi Deng Murdoch will keep the couple’s Beijing house and their apartment on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. The couple will share custody of the school-age girls, who are expected to continue living with their mother in Manhattan, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the personal matters.
Rupert Murdoch will retain properties elsewhere, including an estate in Bel Air, Calif., the person said.
The divorce will be finalized after state Supreme Court Justice Ellen Gesmer signs some yet-to-be-submitted paperwork. She told the couple Wednesday she was glad they had resolved the matters amicably.
The two answered Gesmer’s yes-and-no questions about whether they understood and approved an agreement ending their marriage. Asked whether he was satisfied with the agreement, Rupert Murdoch replied in a strong voice, “Yes, your honour.”
The two had prenuptial and postnuptial agreements on how a divorce would proceed if they split, said the person familiar with the settlement.
The divorce will end a third marriage for the 82-year-old, who got his start in his family’s newspaper business in his native Australia and built a global media conglomerate. Forbes pegged his and his family’s wealth at $13.4 billion in September.
Murdoch’s News Corp. split this year into two companies: the newspaper and publishing portion, still called News Corp., and the more profitable film and TV unit, 21st Century Fox. Both are publicly traded and based in New York.
The divorce won’t affect control of the companies or the succession plan for them. Rupert Murdoch controls them through a family trust that benefits his four children from previous marriages – Prudence, Elisabeth, Lachlan and James.
Upon Rupert Murdoch’s death, all four will have an equal say in what happens to the roughly 38 per cent voting stock the trust holds in both companies.
His and Wendi Deng Murdoch’s daughters, Grace and Chloe, are beneficiaries of 8.7 million non-voting shares being held in a separate trust.
Wendi Deng Murdoch, 44, worked as a junior executive at News Corp.’s subsidiary Star TV in Hong Kong, where she met her now-husband at a 1997 cocktail party. She left Star TV before marrying the media mogul in 1999.
She produced the 2011 movie “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” released by News Corp.’s Fox Searchlight.
She literally leaped into the spotlight when she jumped up to smack a protester who was throwing a cream pie at her husband during a 2011 British parliamentary hearing into phone hacking by News Corp. newspapers.
Associated Press writer Ryan Nakashima contributed to this report from Los Angeles.