News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch has filed for divorce from Wendi Deng Murdoch the mother of his two youngest children and a woman seen as a key player in the media empire.
The news first reported by Deadline Hollywood and confirmed by a spokesman brings to an end the media mogul's third marriage.
Murdoch 82 met Deng in 1997 at a company party in Hong Kong. They were married two years later less than a month after his divorce from ex wife Anna Murdoch was finalised after 32 years of marriage.
The couple are believed to have filed for joint custody of their children but there were no details of any settlement. Murdoch has cited irretrievable breakdown in marriage for more than six months as the reason for the divorce. In the divorce filing released on Wednesday Murdoch's lawyers said that the relationship between husband and wife had broken down irretrievably .
Deng born in China and educated at Yale has been credited with a makeover of her mogul partner introducing him to a younger more tech savvy set of friends including the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's co founder Jack Dorsey.
They married on 25 June 1999 in a twilight ceremony on board Murdoch's garland bedecked yacht the Morning Glory in New York Harbor. Welsh singing star Charlotte Church (who it later emerged waived a 100 000 fee) serenaded the couple with a trio of ballads. Deng now 44 went on to shake up his wardrobe and join a rarefied social circle of Hollywood celebrities and chief executives.
Yet although there had been periodic rumours of marital difficulties the announcement of the end of his third marriage caught Murdoch watchers off guard. Wendi Murdoch had been seen as a key player in the News Corp empire a woman who was more than a match for the dynastic plotting that dominates the media family.
I was totally surprised said Michael Wolff Murdoch's biographer and author of The Man Who Owns The News. Everyone is trying to figure it out.
He described Deng as the most significant figure in the closing chapters of Rupert's life and said she had changed his politics his friends his relationship with his family and even the way he dresses. She has had an enormous impact on his life said Wolff.
Deng became internationally famous in July 2011 after leaping to block an attack by protester Jonathan May Bowles who threw a pie at her husband during a British parliamentary committee hearing into the News International phone hacking scandal.
I think he genuinely loved her said Wolff. Everyone is wondering what went wrong.
The split came on the same day as another moment of epochal change for Murdoch. The News Corporation empire that he built from a single newspaper in Adelaide is to be split in two and Wednesday was the day that the company set out the timetable for trading to begin in the two new companies one focused on his Fox film and television stations and a second bearing the News Corp name housing his newspapers including the Sun and the Times.
That split came about after Murdoch's newspaper business was shattered by the hacking scandal that rocked his empire and led to the arrest of some of his closest allies and his public humiliation. But announcing the separation now was it was suggested timed to ensure that investors were abreast of the financial implications.
Murdoch will control a 30% bloc of voting shares in the two successor companies. Deng herself is likely only to benefit in a limited but still sizeable way from their separation the couple signed a prenuptial agreement and two further agreements in 2002 and 2004.
That though may have reflected the fact that the media mogul had already made one of the largest known divorce settlements. Anna Murdoch his second wife of 32 years received a $1.7bn divorce settlement including $100m in cash. It was the second most costly divorce on record after that of French billionaire Alec Wildenstein and his wife Jocelyn.
However there will be financial benefits for Deng's family in the future which could create complications for the family's long term control of his newspapers and television stations.
Each of Murdoch's six children have an equal economic interest in the family trust that controls the all important bloc of shares Prudence MacLeod the only daughter from his first short marriage to Patricia Booker is the oldest but the best known are Elisabeth Lachlan and James children from his 32 year union to Anna Murdoch.
Deng and Murdoch had two daughters Grace 11 whose godfather is Tony Blair and Chloe nine who like Grace was baptised on the banks of the river Jordan at the spot where Jesus was said to have undergone the same ceremony.
Also acting as godparents were two more of Wendi's friends Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.
Deng had been a key player in News Corp's push into China and is chief of strategy for MySpace's China operation. The Wall Street Journal which Murdoch owns described her as News Corp's de facto diplomat in China. But she does not sit on the board as Anna once did.
News Corp insiders said the divorce would have no impact on the business.