Murdoch divorce may turn messy
JUST over a month after Australian media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, 82, surprised his wife of 14 years with divorce papers, Ms Wendi Deng has switched lawyers, a move signalling that the separation could take an acrimonious turn.
The 44-year-old Deng has hired Mr William Zabel, a well-known New York trusts and estates lawyer who has represented several women in their divorces from wealthy businessmen, including former lawyer Jane Beasley during her contentious split from former chief executive of General Electric Jack Welch.
Ms Deng had been represented by Ms Pamela Sloan, who advised her on her prenuptial agreement with Mr Murdoch in 1999.
But since then, Ms Sloan has become friendly with the Murdochs, and Ms Deng decided she wanted more independent counsel, said a source.
Although the Murdochs signed a prenuptial agreement and two postnuptial agreements delineating the separation of assets in the event of a divorce, there are a number of areas that remain up for negotiation, said sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
For one thing, there are the custody arrangements and child support for their daughters, Grace, 11, and Chloe, nine, the source said.
Because they are not binding on the court, custody arrangements and child support are rarely part of prenuptial agreements, and are often used by less-moneyed spouses as leverage in negotiations.
Other issues that could be contended include the division of certain assets, like their Fifth Avenue penthouse and a yacht.
There is also the contentious issue surrounding the Murdoch family trust. Mr Zabel is expected to examine the soundness of the trust structure.