Murdoch’s wife leaps into global spotlight

2011-07-20 07:16

Shanghai- Wendi Deng, who has emerged as an unlikely heroine after leaping to defend her 80-year-old husband Rupert Murdoch from a pie-wielding protester, has a reputation for fierce loyalty and ambition.

Her full-blooded swing at her husband’s assailant during a British parliamentary hearing on the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has catapulted the former volleyball player into the global spotlight.

But even before that, the Chinese-born American was known as a formidable operator at the heart of one of the world’s most powerful families.

Although she holds no formal role in the company, Deng remains a constant presence at her husband’s side and is said to take an active interest in his business affairs.

The couple’s two young daughters will inherit a large stake in Murdoch’s News Corporation – a huge media conglomerate that owns newspapers and television companies across the world, including Fox and Sky TV.

Deng, who at 42 is 38 years Murdoch’s junior, met her media tycoon husband while working at his Star Television company in Hong Kong, where former colleagues have described her as an expert networker with big ambitions.

Huge fortune

Born in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou in 1968 – at the height of the Cultural Revolution – she left China aged 19 to study in the United States, where she befriended an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry.Deng initially lived in the couple’s California home, but moved out after Joyce discovered that she and Jake were having an affair.

The pair were married, but divorced after less than three years together, during which time Deng took US citizenship.

After graduating from Yale School of Management in 1996, she took an internship with Star, where she met her future husband – then still married to his second wife, Anna – at a company cocktail party.

In 1999, the pair were married in the US aboard a private yacht that Murdoch had reportedly bought for his retirement.

The couple now live in New York with daughters Grace and Chloe, who will inherit a huge fortune after their father changed his will in 2005 to give them an equal interest with his adult children in the family’s News Corp holding.

“Hero of the hour”
Under that deal, Deng will become the most powerful player in the family trust when Murdoch dies because she will act as guardian to her two children until they can claim their inheritance at the age of 30.

At the hearing yesterday – a day her husband called the most humble in his life – she sat directly behind the News Corp chairperson and chief executive, regularly reaching over to give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

Pictures of Deng in an eye-catching bright pink jacket and pencil skirt dominated the front pages of British newspapers today, along with praise for her lightning reactions.

The Daily Mail tabloid called her the “hero of the hour” for springing into action, clouting Murdoch’s attacker on the head and managing to push the plate of gunk he was carrying back into his face.

Opposition parliamentarian Tom Watson, who played a key role in bringing revelations about phone hacking by the News of the World to light, finished the session with the words: “Mr Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook.”

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