This week Rupert Murdoch filed divorce papers on his third wife, Wendi Deng. At the same time, the newspaper mogul showed the exit door to David Devoe, News Corporation’s chief financial officer for the past 23 years. These two family dismissals are all the more surprising because at the same time, Rupert Murdoch reminded Australian investors of the constant factor in his personal and corporate life: ‘News Corp retains the Aussie spirit of a family company.’
Wendi Deng is Rupert’s third wife. She married him in 1999 and is the mother of two of his children. At 44 years of age, Wendi is in perfect shape and stunningly beautiful. He is a decrepit-looking 38 years her senior. Rupert was in such poor physical condition some two years ago when he was physically attacked during a Parliamentary Committee hearing, that he failed to defend himself. Valiantly, Wendi floored his attacker with a perfectly-timed left hook, earning the name ‘Tigress Wife’ for her intervention. The divorce papers are Rupert’s kind of recognition for protecting her husband from humiliation and potential charges of cowardice under fire.
David Devoe has stood courageously by Rupert’s side as the press mogul has reeled before charges of impropriety. Defoe has played the pivotal role in restructuring News Corporation into separate entertainment and publishing businesses on June 28, 2013. ‘Bye-bye David’, is Rupert’s supremely generous response.
Rupert’s loyalty has been more than a little fragile both before and after the News of the World scandal erupted in 2011. Two central figures had already been shown the exit door prior to the scandal. Peter Chernin was ousted as chief operating officer in 2009 after 13 years of loyal service. Gary Ginsberg, who ran marketing and corporate affairs was forced out in 2010 after a decade of licking Rupert’s boots.
When the crisis came to a head in July 2011, Rebekah Brook, the chief executive of the News International UK newspaper arm – described by some former colleagues as a fifth Murdoch daughter, fell on her sword for Daddy.The same day, Les Hinton, who had worked for Rupert for 52 years, since he fetched him sandwiches as a 15-year-old copy boy at Rupert’s first newspaper, was removed from his new position in charge of the recently acquired Dow Jones.
There may be some lessons to be learned from all this family upheaval. Most especially, one should understand that when Rupert talks about his ‘family’, he really means himself. Rather like Charles de Gaulle whose frequent references to La France were truly references only to himself: L’etat, c’est moi.