Why Rupert Murdoch's Most Expensive Divorce Cost Him Billions

Rupert Murdoch is no stranger to marriage — or divorce proceedings, for that matter. Now in his 90s, the Australian-American media mogul is once again navigating those waters. In July, Murdoch and Jerry Hall filed for divorce in Los Angeles, marking his fourth and the former model's first, The Guardian reported. Although Hall was with Mick Jagger for more than two decades, and had four children with him, the couple never technically tied the knot.

Hall and the Rolling Stones frontman celebrated a traditional ceremony in Indonesia in 1990, but a British court declared the union null in both countries in 1999, the BBC reported. Hall's marriage to Murdoch, on the other hand, was very much official, with all the bureaucracy that it entails. Murdoch and Hall wed on March 4, 2016, according to the BBC, less than two months after they announced their engagement.

The decision to separate surprised those close to Murdoch and Hall, The New York Times noted, suggesting there were no outwardly clear reasons. But Hall hinted it might have been financially motivated in her filing, contending she was "unaware of the full nature and extent of all [Murdoch's] assets and debts, and will amend this petition when the information has been ascertained," The Guardian reported. The divorce was finalized just one month later, the Los Angeles Times noted, though it's unclear how much it cost. But the figure will likely be a lot less than what he lost during his divorce from his second wife, Anna Murdoch. 

Inside one of the world's (purportedly) most expensive divorces

In June 1999, Rupert and Anna Murdoch officially put an end to their 32-year marriage, according to The Guardian. But the papers came with a hefty price tag. In 2013, The New York Times reported that Rupert settled with Anna for a whopping $1.2 billion, making it the world's third-most expensive divorce as of May, according to Investopedia. However, that figure has been disputed. Of course, when we're talking billions and settlements that involve a media empire with tricky elements like stocks and assets, we know we're walking on uncertain terrain.

The NYT report noted $110 million of the final figure had been given to Anna in cash. But other than that, it doesn't detail the source of the remaining millions. The Guardian's Michael Wolff and author of a biography on Murdoch's dynasty argued in a 2013 column that $1.2 billion is an exaggerated sum. "One-and-three-quarters billion dollars is an extreme and preposterous amount that ... ought to have cried out for further scrutiny," he wrote. He isn't the only one to contest the amount.

The Australian Financial Review's investigative reporter Neil Chenoweth also argued the figure defied the reality of the mogul's holding company. "If Anna secretly holds $1.7bn of Rupert's NewsCorp stock then all that stuff bout the 6 kids getting equal shares is hooey. Makes no sense," he tweeted in 2013. Indeed, New York Magazine reported in 2005 that Anna had actually settled for $200 million. 

Rupert Murdoch's third marriage created family — and business — problems

Exactly 17 days after Rupert Murdoch signed his divorce settlement with Anna, the billionaire said "I do" for a third time. On June 25, 1999, Murdoch married Wendi Deng, then an intern at one of Murdoch's News Corp. publications, who's nearly 40 years his junior, The Guardian noted. Murdoch had been having an affair with Deng, marking the end of his second marriage, Anna told Australian Women's Weekly in 2001 (via Independent). "It's not an original plot ... I thought we had a wonderful, happy marriage. Obviously, we didn't," Anna said.

Murdoch's relationship with Deng produced more than hurt feelings, however. The businessman had two more children with Deng, reportedly complicating prior arrangements involving a trust set up to hold News Corp. assets in the name of his three children with Anna and a daughter he had with his first wife, Patricia Booker, the Los Angeles Times reported in 2005.

Murdoch's new children also created a bit of confusion regarding the succession line of the family empire, illustrated by the resignation of Murdoch and Anna's son and News Corp. heir apparent, Lachlan, in 2005. Lachlan and his father had been sparring over Deng's insistence to include her daughters in the family trust, a deal Lachlan opposed. The infighting between her loved ones devastated Anna. "There's been such a lot of pressure that they needn't have had at their age," she told Australian Women's Weekly. Murdoch and Deng divorced in 2014.