Media mogul Rupert Murdoch has opened up for the first time publicly about his divorce from Wendi Deng, saying he was "shocked" to learn of reports that his ex-wife kept diary entries about the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In a wide-ranging interview with Fortune magazine, the News Corporation chief revealed that he first learned of the alleged encounters between his wife of 14 years and Blair while he was on a trip to Australia.
Murdoch, 83, said he immediately returned to the California ranch where Deng and Blair were alleged to have spent weekends in October 2012 and April 2013, and questioned staff there about what had happened.
While not revealing what staff told him, Murdoch told Fortune that he filed for divorce the following week.
Details of Deng's alleged diary entries, in which she reportedly praised Blair's "good body and really really good legs [and] Butt", were outlined earlier this year in Vanity Fair magazine.
Asked by Fortune what he thought of Deng's alleged diary entries, Murdoch responded: "I was shocked. But I didn't read them and I was not given them until after I had filed for divorce.
"I regret the whole Vanity Fair thing. I wish we just could have got divorced quietly. There is this view out there, and I'm sure you've heard it, 'Boy, Rupert, he makes a decision and he moves on'.
"Well, you know, everybody was talking about these things and never telling me anything. I don't really want to go into this. But then I was told two pretty circumstantial things about the ranch [where Deng had been staying, according to Vanity Fair].
"I was in Australia. When I got back, I naturally asked the staff, and it opened up. That's the story. And then, you know, a week later I filed. As soon as I could find a lawyer."
Blair, who is godfather to one of Murdoch and Deng's daughters, has always denied he had an affair with Deng and there is no evidence to suggest that was the case.
Murdoch divorced Deng, his third wife, in November last year.
In the Fortune interview, believed to be Murdoch's first extended media interview since 2009, he speaks candidly about splitting his newspaper conglomerate into two public companies, and his attempt to repair frayed relationships with his grown children.
The billionaire admitted that the past few years had been stressful.
"Oh, it's been stressful. I'm quite open about it," he said.
"I was reluctant to see the company split, and now I've got to say that I've been proved wrong. I think it's been a great success. And I'm not talking about the share market. I think the two companies, which were all in one before, are now much more focused, which will lead to faster growth."
He also revealed he fractured his back earlier this year during a fall in his San Francisco hotel room.
"I had a very bad month in January and February," he said. "I had a fall in San Francisco.
"And I got, I guess you'd call it, a hair fracture across my spine. I landed on a carpet, but on my head. I've never had such pain in my life. A friend of mine sent a friend of his, a neurosurgeon, down to see me, who quickly said I didn't have any concussion.
"After that, I just went to my ranch and rested for three weeks."
Five months on from the divorce, Murdoch said he was "turning over a new leaf", and had recently bought a new California ranch and an apartment in New York.
He hoped his two daughters with Deng would each have their own rooms in the US$57.8 million ($66.3 million) apartment, which spans the 58th, 59th and 60th floor of the building.
"I assume that my two daughters will each have their own rooms for the first time in their lives. And they're decorating them, they think," he said.
Murdoch also said he hoped he and his eldest daughter, Elisabeth, had put their troubles behind them, after the pair had a public disagreement over the News Corporation phone-hacking scandal.
"I had a long and warm and loving hour with her on the phone yesterday. But mainly talking about her kids and not about the business," he said.
Asked what kind of a leader he was, Murdoch said: "I'm a permanently curious person. I probably waste my time being curious about things that have got nothing to do with the business sometimes. What keeps me alive, certainly, is curiosity."
Fortune said Murdoch declined to discuss allegations of phone hacking by News Corporation journalists in Britain for legal reasons.
The interview with Murdoch is in the April 28 issue of Fortune.
- Fairfax Media