Friday 15 December 2017

Rupert Murdoch: 'When I read of Wendi's crush on Tony Blair I wanted a divorce'

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox, and wife Wendi Deng, departing New York State Supreme Court after a hearing in New York
Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp and 21st Century Fox, and wife Wendi Deng, departing New York State Supreme Court after a hearing in New York
Tony Blair and Rupert Murdoch

Keith Perry

Rupert Murdoch has spoken for the first time about his divorce from Wendi Deng and how he first learned about her secret weekends with Tony Blair at his family’s California ranch.

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Mr Murdoch, 83, the head of News Corporation, also described how recent events, including the phone hacking scandal, had been stressful.

“Oh, it's been stressful. I'm quite open about it. I was reluctant to see the company split, and now I've got to say that I've been proved wrong. I think it's been a great success. And I'm not talking about the share market. I think the two companies, which were all in one before, are now much more focused, which will lead to faster growth.”

In the interview, Mr Murdoch explained that when he first heard of the alleged encounters between his wife and Mr Blair while in Australia and immediately flew back to the ranch to question the staff.

Mr Murdoch said he then contacted a lawyer. He also revealed he was “shocked” when he first read his ex-wife's diary entries in which she described having “warm feelings” comparable to a 'crush' on Blair, who allegedly stayed at the ranch with Mrs Deng in October 2012 and April 2013 while the 83-year-old was overseas.

“Well, you know, everybody was talking about these things and never telling me anything... But then I was told two pretty circumstantial things about the ranch [where Mrs Deng had been staying],” he said.

“I was in Australia. When I got back, I naturally asked the staff, and it opened up. That's the story. And then, you know, a week later I filed. As soon as I could find a lawyer.”

The couple divorced last November after 14 years of marriage. Mr Blair, who is godfather to one of Mr Murdoch and Mrs Deng's daughters, has always denied he had an affair with Deng and there is no evidence to suggest that is the case.

Mr Murdoch said he wasn't given Mrs Deng's diary entries until after he filed for divorce. He said he was 'shocked' by the love notes, but didn't read them.

He said the revelation made him feel he'd made the right decision, but he regretted the publicity surrounding the diary entries

“I regret the whole Vanity Fair thing. I wish we just could have got divorced quietly,” he told Fortune.

Five months on from the divorce, Mr Murdoch said he's 'turning over a new leaf,' buying a new California ranch and a lavish apartment in New York.

In the interview, the billionaire also describes a fall in San Francisco, which saw him suffer a hair fracture across his spine.

"I had a very bad month in January and February,” he said. “I had a fall in San Francisco.

“And I got, I guess you'd call it, a hair fracture across my spine. I landed on a carpet, but on my head. I've never had such pain in my life. A friend of mine sent a friend of his, a neurosurgeon, down to see me, who quickly said I didn't have any concussion.

“After that, I just went to my ranch and rested for three weeks.”

He said his two daughters will each have their own rooms in the Manhattan apartment, which spans the 58th, 59th and 60th floor of the building.

“I assume that my two daughters will each have their own rooms for the first time in their lives. And they're decorating them, they think,” he said.

Mr Murdoch also discusses his elder daughter Elisabeth, in the interview, whom he had a public disagreement with over the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal.

Elisabeth, who chairs London-based TV production company Shine Limited, criticised the company's handling of the scandal in a speech in Scotland known as the MacTaggart Lecture.

Mr Murdoch told Fortune his daughter won praise from everyone on the talk 'except me' and that he thought she was hurt that he didn't like it.

But he hopes the pair have since put their troubles behind them.

“I had a long an warm and loving hour with her on the phone yesterday,” he said, adding that they talk mostly about her children not the business.

The interview features is in the April 28, 2014 issue of Fortune.

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