Saturday 27 May 2017

Standing by her man: How Wendi won the world over

Fending off a foam pie, Rupert Murdoch's wife became a hero, writes Darragh McManus

Rupert Murdoch with his hugely influential wife Wendi Deng
Rupert Murdoch with his hugely influential wife Wendi Deng
Wendi aims a right hook at Murdoch's attacker
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

If you google the name of Rupert Murdoch's wife, one of the prompts reads "Wendi Deng gold-digger". This suggests that a lot of people think the 42-year-old only married the mogul for his money; a reasonable assumption, maybe, considering he has almost four decades on her, and is regarded as one of the world's least appealing human beings.

Anyone who saw her in action during this week's House of Commons hearings, though, might have changed their mind. Deng literally leaped to hubbie's defence when an attention-seeking idiot attacked him with a 'foam pie', and it looked like the act of someone who genuinely cares.

The footage has become, unsurprisingly, a YouTube sensation. We see comedian and activist Jonnie Marbles lunge at Murdoch; then former volleyball champion Wendi jumps from her seat, slaps the funnyman on the head and tumbles to the ground with him.

At this point the camera cuts away, but she proceeded to pick up the paper plate and fire it back at Marbles. She then wiped off Murdoch's face, reportedly joking, "I got him."

Given her Chinese nationality and her movements, the jokes write themselves: instead of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we have Crouching Rupert, Flying Wendi. But who is this fairly fearsome, striking-looking woman who has catapulted herself into the public eye?

She was born Deng Wenge in 1968 in Xuzhou, a city in eastern China. The third of four children of a pair of engineers, she excelled both academically and in sports, and enrolled in medical school aged just 16.

Aged 19 she met an American businessman and his wife, Jake and Joyce Cherry. They sponsored her student visa to the US, where she swapped medicine for economics at California State.

Topping her undergrad class, Wendi went on to Yale business school, and from there to an internship at Fox television, one of many companies owned by Murdoch's News Corp. She subsequently moved to Star TV, another News Corp company, in Hong Kong, helping to drive the Australian tycoon's push into the vast Chinese market.

She now works as chief of strategy for the China operations of social networking site MySpace, and has been responsible for many of his investments in her home country.

Experts say that she gives News Corp "a Chinese face in China"

Meanwhile, Jake Cherry had left his wife for Wendi and they married in 1990, divorcing two-and-a-half years later.

Wendi had met Murdoch in 1997 and they married two years later, three weeks after his divorce from second wife Anna was finalised. The pair now live mainly in New York, with their daughters Grace and Chloe.

A vegan and regular exerciser, Wendi is reported to be just as devoted to her ageing husband's health, encouraging gym workouts and an abstemious diet, and often scolding him for slipping into his bad habits.

Ironically, and amusingly, the pie-throwing incident has had the total opposite effect to what Mr Marbles intended. Murdoch's image as an amoral old reptile has been slightly softened -- nobody likes to see an elderly man physically accosted, no matter who he is.

More importantly, her bravura defence has made Wendi a cult hero around the world. Twitter was full of praise for her actions all day Tuesday, hailing her as a mixture of Bionic Woman and Domestic Goddess.

Under the hashtag #WendiDeng, the gags came thick and fast: "Slapped his mug, put the pie back in the attacker's face, consoled and cleaned up her husband. #topwife" "If Russ Meyer was still alive he'd have #wendideng in a movie by the end of the week." "Got a problem? Nobody can help? Just ask Wendi!"

Katie Rosman, a writer with The Wall Street Journal (also owned by Murdoch), perhaps summed it up most succinctly: "That did more for Murdoch than (PR firm) Edelman ever could."

She might be derided but with that dramatic intervention, Wendi Deng certainly did her bit for the company this week.

Irish Independent

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