Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

The Boy Who Wouldn't Be King

Anna filed for divorce, coincidentally, in the same California court that granted Wendi and Jake their divorce, seven years later. Wendi sought no financial gain. In Rupert and Anna’s case, more was at stake. California, a community-property state, could have awarded Anna half the fortune—lately valued at more than $7.8 billion—and perhaps even some amount of corporate control.

Anna was furious at Rupert. “She was fired up,” Lachlan told a colleague. “She would have gone after my dad for everything.” Instead, Anna settled for the relatively modest figure of about $200 million, according to Chenoweth, who’s tracked every share of stock the Murdochs have sold since 1970. In return, she secured assurances on control of the major portion of the assets—not for her but for her kids. Anna was convinced by Rupert’s lawyers that she was setting aside the trust for the four children—Anna’s three, plus Prudence, whom Anna helped raise.

The trust is the A. E. Harris trust, which Rupert created decades ago and which holds 28.5 percent of News Corp.’s voting stock. The trust not only includes most of the family assets but also is the key to its control of News Corp.. “[The divorce agreement] controls the appointment of the trustees to the trust,” says Anna’s divorce attorney, Daniel Jaffe. According to the agreement, Rupert gets four votes; the four adult children receive one vote each. When Rupert dies, his votes disappear. The kids then control the assets and, also, the empire. It was an arrangement that Rupert could go for. He certainly wanted his kids to inherit News Corp., even if the agreement, technically, put the majority of his resources beyond his control. “All I know is that we have something set that cannot be touched about where the power and the shares lie in the family trust,” said Anna in an unpublished portion of her Australian interview.

In 1999, Anna married William Mann, whom she met in Southampton. Usually described as an investor, Mann was a two-time widower five years older than Rupert. His holdings, certainly in comparison to Anna’s, were modest. More important, Mann is charming, sociable, good company—and he’s there. Anna talks about how he butterflies lamb on the barbecue and how they attend church every Sunday. He plays golf, loves opera. They’ve been seen on the ski slopes. “He’s a nice old man” was Rupert’s view, the gently dismissive opinion repeated by other News Corp. execs.

On June 25, seventeen days after Rupert’s divorce came through, he married Wendi aboard his boat, Morning Glory, which he later sold to Silvio Berlusconi. Anna had wanted Rupert at home; Wendi happily traveled the world with him, sweetly holding his hand in the back of a sedan (Rupert thinks limousines pretentious). She accompanied him to China, where it must’ve seemed she was living a fairy tale. At dinner one evening, the daughter of the factory manager was seated next to the then-president of China. Rupert sat on the other side.

For Rupert, Wendi seemed to inaugurate a second youth. He had a personal trainer—“full time,” says one friend, who adds, “He’s in the best physical shape he’s ever been in.” Remarking on the boss’s vigor was now the order of the day. Rupert joined in, boasting like a cowboy about his physical prowess, even after prostate cancer. “I went to work every day throughout,” he says. It didn’t hurt that Michael Milken, Rupert’s onetime financier, a fellow prostate-cancer survivor and now longevity enthusiast, whispered in his ear, “We’re projecting average life expectancy to 110.”

Wendi’s job, one of them, was to remind Rupert of his vitality—in one of her rare public utterances, she was said to have told an associate that Rupert used Viagra but didn’t need it—and generally reflect back at him a more favorable view of his mortality. She watches Rupert’s diet, supervises his health, and sometimes teases him. She’s not the meek sort—Rupert doesn’t go for meek. “Are you going deaf, old man?” a colleague heard her say to Rupert. It was a tender if pointed jab. “She’s a very loving, supportive wife,” Rupert pronounced her.

Wendi doesn’t seem the typical trophy wife, brimming with social ambitions. For one thing, she doesn’t have the clothes for it. “I think she has ten pairs of shoes,” says friend Kathy Freston, wife of Tom, Viacom’s co-COO. (“Wendi, buy yourself some shoes,” Kathy told her. “Oh, I don’t need them,” Wendi said.) Yale rushed Wendi onto its management school’s board, but she didn’t seem an aspiring magnate. Lately, she had little to do with Rupert’s business and concentrated on running his life outside the office.

With Wendi, Rupert temporarily quit the Upper East Side apartment he’d shared with Anna and moved to a $7 million Soho loft, not far from a $5 million building Lachlan was renovating and conveniently near friends Amy Tan, the writer, and her husband. (They’d walk over to Amy’s for a cozy movie night—8 Mile with Eminem, say—Rupert in his casual new style, jeans and sneakers.) Wendi also renovated the “tired” London penthouse in Mayfair. Anna had favored reproduction Louis XV fireplaces. Wendi went for a retractable ceiling. Rupert did his part, snapping up a $44 million apartment, then the most expensive ever listed. It was Laurance Rockefeller’s former residence and is in the building in which Rupert and Anna raised Lachlan and his siblings. The symbolism was hard to miss; Rupert the Ruthless had erased the past four decades.