Tony Blair denies Murdoch affair

Last updated 08:36 15/06/2013
Reuters

News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch files for divorce from his wife Wendi. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

Tony Blair
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FAMILY FRIEND: Tony Blair is close to the Murdochs and is godfather to their two daughters.
Rupert Murdoch
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SURPRISE SPLIT: Rupert Murdoch and his third wife Wendi Deng.

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has strongly denied claims he had an affair with Rupert Murdoch's third wife, Wendi Deng.

A spokesman for Mr Blair flatly denied the media rumours when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter: "If you are asking if they are having an affair, the answer is no."

He later clairfied that Mr Blair never had an affair with Ms Deng and would not be making a public statement on the matter.

Mr Blair's name began trending on Twitter after the news of Mr Murdoch's divorce broke.

Speculation has been running wild as to why the 82-year-old News Corp chief suddenly filed for a divorce after 14 years of marriage to Ms Deng.

Divorce papers filed in the New York Supreme Court simply state the "relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably".

According to experts on the media mogul's life and business affairs, Mr Murdoch's reasons for the divorce are "jaw-dropping".

BBC financial correspondent Robert Peston, who is close friends with many of Mr Murdoch's key lieutenants, including News Corp CEO Robert Thomson, kicked the rumour frenzy off when he tweeted yesterday: "Am also told that undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping - & hate myself for wanting to know what they are."

Murdoch's biographer, Michael Wolff, added on his Twitter account: "I'm hearing the WHY, the big reveal, the scandal details, could come tomorrow."

He added ominously: "Rumor about the big B is everywhere except in print."

He confirmed "B" was Mr Blair after Mr Blair's spokesman issued a denial to The Hollywood Reporter.

"Tony Blair has denied an affair with Wendi Murdoch, so open discussion officially begins," he tweeted.

It is no secret that Blair is close to Murdoch and Deng.

Mr Blair, who was British Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, is godfather to their two children, Grace, 11, and Chloe, 9. He has been married to his wife Cherie for 33 years.

Ms Deng, 44, is reportedly close to several powerful men, including Mr Blair and Google chief Eric Schmidt.

Ever since she intimated to the New York Times last year that she and Mr Murdoch were living independent lives, speculation has mounted that their marriage was on the rocks.

Another expert on Mr Murdoch, Neil Chenoweth, believes Mr Murdoch planned to divorce Ms Deng back in February

He claimed that the death of Mr Murdoch's mother in December last year gave him extra News Corp shares with which he could pay Ms Deng off.

Mr Wolff claimed that Mr Murdoch had reportedly told his eldest son, Lachlan, that his marriage to Ms Deng was a "mistake".

The divorce comes at a risky time for Mr Murdoch, who is set to split News Corp into two separate businesses at the end of the month.

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Senior News Corp execs have been fired in recent weeks. Mr Wolff jokingly tweeted:

The couple are believed to have filed for joint custody of their children,  11-year-old Grace, and nine-year-old Chloe, but there are no details of any settlement.

Mr Murdoch married Ms Deng in 1999, soon after he split from his second wife, Anna Torv. Torv and Murdoch had been married for 31 years and the divorce was a bitter one.

His first marriage, to Patricia Booker, ended in 1967.

Mr Murdoch met Ms Deng at a party when she was an intern at the company's Star TV in Hong Kong. Their marriage was at first viewed as a joke, with Deng framed as a gold-digger and Murdoch the flattered old man.

However, those who know the couple have described the them as very close, with Ms Deng proving to be a positive influence on her older husband's life and mediator between him and his children with Torv.

Ms Deng was fiercely protective of Murdoch as well. In 2011, when she was sitting behind Murdoch as he testified before a British parliamentary committee following the UK phone hacking scandal, she showed her husband's critics that she had mean right hook.

As assailant Jonathan May-Bowles approached with a pie aimed at her husband, Ms Deng, a former volleyball player, jumped to her feet and launched her right hand at May-Bowles.

Mr Wolff has described her as the "most significant figure in the closing chapters of Rupert's life". "She has had an enormous impact on his life," he told the Guardian.

According to alleged details of the couple's pre-nup, their children will not have the same voting rights as Elisabeth, Lachlan and James, his children by Torv.

Mr Murdoch has built a $US60 billion (NZ$74.74bn) global media empire, and, ironically, earlier this week the company's shareholders voted to split the business into two publicly traded companies.

21st Century Fox will hold the TV and movie interests, while News Corp will hold the newspaper and publishing assets.

A News Corp spokesperson said the divorce would have no impact on the company.

- Stuff

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