A fundamental difference over money was the real reason behind Rupert Murdoch’s surprise divorce from former supermodel Jerry Hall, well-placed sources have said.
The Saturday Paper understands that simmering differences over the division of the Murdoch fortune were at the heart of the falling out between Murdoch and Hall.
Those differences have been growing since 2019, when Murdoch sold the bulk of his television and movie business, 21st Century Fox, to Disney in a $US71 billion deal.
That sale created a $12 billion windfall for Rupert’s six children, who each received Disney shares worth $2 billion.
“When the Disney payday came around, there was a view that Jerry should have been given something as Rupert’s custodian, which didn’t happen,” said a source aligned with the Murdochs and familiar with the dynamics within the family.
“I think you’ll find that’s what was at the centre of the issue. She’s saying she was wrong-footed by it – she probably was – but there’s no question Rupert looks at things in a very different way and money is at the centre of it.”
The source continued: “Jerry was constantly trying to work out ways to channel some of Rupert’s hard-earned through to her children with Mick. He turned the ATM off.”
Hall was previously in a long-term relationship with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, whose wealth is estimated at £413 million. She has four adult children from that union: Elizabeth, 38, James, 36, Georgia May, 30, and Gabriel, 24.
Hall and Jagger split in 1999 after a turbulent relationship spanning two decades. She reportedly received about £10 million in the settlement. He reportedly ended the marriage by email.
Hall and Murdoch were married in March 2016 and have a firm prenuptial agreement. Control of Murdoch’s $21 billion media empire, including the Fox and News corporations, will be unaffected by the divorce.
First reported in The New York Times three weeks ago, the divorce surprised both family and friends of the couple.
Hall filed divorce papers in the Los Angeles Superior Court on July 2, citing “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the breakdown of her six-year marriage to Murdoch, and seeking spousal support.
Neither Hall’s Californian attorney, Ronald Brot, nor her London agents, responded to requests for comment by The Saturday Paper. Murdoch has a month to respond to the filing.
Murdoch and Hall were previously understood to be happily married, and she was apparently “doting” on him at his belated 90th birthday celebrations in New York last October.
A number of reasons have been cited in media reports to explain the divorce, including that Rupert was unhappy with Jerry’s smoking habit and that his own children resented her role as a “gatekeeper” to their father during the pandemic.
A friend of Hall told Britain’s Daily Mail recently that Hall blamed Murdoch’s children for the marriage ending, saying she used to joke about becoming the “Covid police”, but his family believed she was trying to cut off contact with their father. “They thought that Jerry was keeping them from him,” a friend told the paper. “She does blame the children for souring the marriage. They had a lot to say about it and a role in his personal life which she found a nasty surprise. Clearly, they mistrusted her.”
The Mail also reported discussions earlier this year in which Hall spoke with the wider Murdoch family about her financial status and what she might get when Murdoch died. Some at the meeting believed that no further provision should be made at this time, which rankled Jerry.
Murdoch has six children from three previous marriages: Prudence MacLeod, 63, from his first marriage to Patricia Booker; Elisabeth, 53, Lachlan, 50, and James, 49, from his second, 31-year marriage to Anna Torv; and Grace, 20, and Chloe, 19, from his 14-year marriage to Wendi Deng. That last relationship broke down amid reports Deng was having affairs with former British prime minister Tony Blair and MySpace co-founder Chris deWolfe – which she has consistently denied.
The elder Murdoch children, particularly Lachlan and James, are divided on many global issues and waged a bitter war over the succession of the family business, but are extremely protective of their father – particularly in the wake of his traumatic separation from Deng.
Neither James nor his wife, Kathryn Hufschmid – a trenchant critic of Fox News and a strategic donor to the Democrats – turned up to Rupert’s 90th birthday celebrations last year. Both were there, however, for the recent Cotswolds wedding of Elisabeth’s eldest daughter, Charlotte Freud, to rapper Luke Storey – which sparked rumours of a rapprochement.
Celebrity gossip site Popbitch recently speculated that Jerry could not stand Murdoch’s youngest children, Grace and Chloe: “She doesn’t mind the older set so much, but rumour has it that the breaking point in the marriage came when she excluded Wendi’s batch from a big family get-together. Especially galling for Rupert, as he’d been so generous with Jerry’s kids. He even gave her son Gabriel’s media company a rather handsome contract to produce the Sunday Times Culture Show for him.”
The first public sign of any falling-out came when Hall didn’t attend Rupert’s annual summer party at London’s Serpentine Gallery, one of the highlights of the social calendar, which was attended by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Hall’s family and friends were also absent. The New York Times scoop came just two days later.
In recent days the Daily Beast has reported that it was Murdoch’s eldest son, Lachlan, chief executive of Fox Corporation and co-chairman of both Fox and News, who told Rupert to pull the pin on the marriage to Jerry and played a part in legal and PR strategies.
Although the Murdoch media businesses will not be affected, speculation now centres on whether Murdoch will be generous in his separation from Hall – particularly with regards to how the vast portfolio of properties owned by the couple will be divided.
The largest holding is a 138,000-hectare cattle ranch in Montana, which Murdoch bought from a subsidiary of Koch Industries in December. The purchase was said to have been a romantic gesture – and it is understood that the ageing mogul has been spending an increasing amount of time there.
The Saturday Paper understands Murdoch is so taken with his ranch in Montana that he has expanded his rural holdings there, recently buying a second ranch in the state, worth more than $US100 million. The spending spree may have contributed to tensions between the couple, according to a separate source close to the Murdoch family, who said: “I don’t think Jerry liked it – it’s fucking cold in Montana.”
In March, Murdoch listed for sale two adjoining penthouse apartments at the One Madison tower in midtown Manhattan, with eight bedrooms across four levels – he is asking $US78 million. In hindsight, pundits are speculating the sale may be related to the marriage breakdown.
The couple also owns two mansions outside London: Holmwood House at Henley, bought for £11 million in 2019, where they spent most of the pandemic, and the historic Great Tew Manor in the Cotswolds, which was bought the following year and is derelict but the subject of extravagant £30 million renovation plans. The property portfolio also includes a Mayfair, London apartment; the Moraga vineyard and estate in Bel Air, Los Angeles; and the historic Cavan cattle station by the Murrumbidgee River near Yass in New South Wales, which is a favoured retreat of the extended Murdoch family.
Rupert has been easing into retirement, leaving the day-to-day running of the empire to Lachlan and trusted News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson. “What you’re seeing is a gradual passing of the baton from Rupert to Lachlan,” a Murdoch insider told The Saturday Paper, “which we never thought would happen.”
Murdoch’s divorce from Hall may complicate the succession by opening up the possibility of a return to work for the 91-year-old. Murdoch’s mother, Dame Elisabeth, died peacefully in 2012 at the age of 103, and Rupert expects to outlive her.
A spokesman for Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch in Australia, John Connolly, did not respond to The Saturday Paper in time for publication.
Paddy Manning’s biography of Lachlan Murdoch, The Successor, will be published by Black Inc in November.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on July 16, 2022 as "Jerry canned!".
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