Andrew Neil, a former editor of Britain’s The Sunday Times, once wrote about the best advice he had received while working for media billionaire Rupert Murdoch. “Don’t fall in love with Rupert,” he was told. “He turns against lovers and chops them off.”
The advice perhaps should have been given not only to Murdoch’s courtiers but also to the women he has married over the years.
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Murdoch, 91, was divorcing his fourth wife, the former model and actor, Jerry Hall, who is 65.
Murdoch and Hall met in Australia in 2015 when Hall was touring in the stage adaption of The Graduate, playing Mrs Robinson. The first public confirmation of their courtship came the same year when Murdoch was photographed kissing Hall at the Rugby World Cup final at Twickenham in October 2015.
The couple married in 2016, and on his wedding day, Murdoch, who had a brief flirtation with Twitter, tweeted: “Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in world.”
English poet Samuel Johnson once wrote that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Perhaps a fourth marriage is better described as a triumph of imagination over intelligence.
In March earlier this year, Murdoch, who is worth an estimated $US7.62 billion ($11 billion) on Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, listed his New York penthouse for sale for a reported $US78 million. In hindsight, there has been speculation about whether Murdoch may have been trying to sell that property ahead of the divorce.
The New York penthouse, which is situated across from Madison Square Park, and a block back from Fifth Avenue, was said to have 360-degree views of the city, including landmark buildings such as the Empire State Building, One World Trade Centre and the Hudson and East rivers.
Murdoch’s wealth primarily comes from his stakes in News Corp and Fox, companies that own newspaper, publishing and TV assets globally, and also in Disney. Disney bought the Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox, in a $71 billion share deal in March 2019.
Murdoch’s latest divorce has drawn surprise. Only last October, Hall was seen doting on Murdoch at his belated 90th birthday party that she hosted in a tent attached to the Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York’s Central Park. The party was attended by 130 power brokers, longtime lieutenants, friends and family, among them fellow media titans Barry Diller and Peter Chernin and at least two of Murdoch’s six children, Lachlan and Elisabeth.
Murdoch’s fourth divorce has quickly become headlines around the world, with good reason. For more than half a century, Murdoch has been central to the state of world affairs. His media companies have reshaped governments through their influence, with his Fox News Channel helping elect US President Donald Trump in 2016, while his UK tabloid The Sun led the fight for Britain to exit the European Union, in what became known as Brexit.
In Australia, former prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd have called for Murdoch’s power and influence to be curtailed.
Now that Murdoch is the news story, paparazzi are trying to get shots of him and Hall, and there is feverish speculation about the payout that she will receive.
Will Hall get the UK home the couple spent £11.25 million on in 2019? Did she sign a prenuptial agreement, like Murdoch’s previous wife Wendi Deng did?
Murdoch divorced Deng after a 14-year marriage and the settlement included cash and property, and also, reportedly, that their two children would become equal beneficiaries of the Murdoch Family Trust, but with no voting rights. The trust controls the family’s voting shares in News Corp.
Murdoch was married to Deng from 1999 to 2013. His longest marriage was to Anna Torv from 1967 to 1999, with whom he had three children. His first marriage was to Patricia Booker, from 1956 to 1967, and they had one child.
Murdoch’s fourth divorce is unlikely to change the ownership structure of his empire. And what Hall will receive in the divorce remains unknown. However, she almost certainly will receive a bigger payout than the £10 million she received in 1999, after her 22-year relationship with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger ended. The couple had four children.
Murdoch isn’t the only billionaire to walk down the aisle multiple times.
Larry Ellison, the world’s 11th richest person and founder of Oracle, has been married four times. Elon Musk, the world’s richest man and chief executive of Tesla, has been married three times, including twice to the same woman.
Even Warren Buffett, the world’s seventh-richest man, who’s the same age as Murdoch and is often held up as a paragon of virtue, has had unconventional relationships. He wed his first wife in 1952 and was married to her for five decades. However, for much of that time Buffett lived with another woman, who he would later marry after his first wife died.
Murdoch enters the final years of his life on his own but with his power, influence and wealth intact. Like all billionaires, he’s never had to worry about the “for poorer” part of his wedding vows.
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