Wendi, Rupert Murdoch True to Character, Biographer Says
Rupert and Wendi Murdoch were true to character Tuesday when she went from the statuesque, socialite wife of a media mogul to a protective spouse with a steady right hook, according to Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff.
"I thought, 'That's our Rupert and that's our Wendi,'" Wolff told ABC News of his reaction to the couple's behavior during the otherwise solemn parliamentary hearing.
"She's kind of fearless, actually," he said of Wendi Deng Murdoch.
In an unexpected twist of events at the hearing Tuesday in which Murdoch and son James were peppered with questions about allegations of phone hacking, Murdoch's wife was the first to jump to her husband's side as an attacker threw what looked like a shaving-cream pie in the News Corp. chairman and CEO's face.
Wearing a pink suit jacket, video footage shows Deng, 42 and married to the 80-year-old Murdoch for 12 years, jump up and lunge after the attacker faster than anyone, taking an open-handed swing at the man who was arrested shortly thereafter.
That doesn't surprise me. She's fairly feisty," said Eric Ellis, who wrote a detailed profile on Deng for the Monthly in June 2007. "I think it was an instinctive reaction that anyone would have … looking after her partner."
But Deng is much more than a protective trophy wife and mother to two of Murdoch's children. She is a Yale University business school graduate and former News Corp. employee who also worked as the head of MySpace China, purchased by Murdoch in 2005.
"She's in there living the life," biographer Wolff said. "This is a woman who came to the U.S. when she was 18 from China, speaking no English, with her first job in a Chinese restaurant.
"She's done it all," he said. "She's had no pretense that she's taking it and grabbing it for herself, and the thing you feel is kind of good for her."
Deng's background is as feisty as the right hook and quick reflexes she displayed to protect her husband as he faced tense questioning by a British parliamentary panel, and now sees his media empire rollicked by scandal and arrests.
Born in the northeastern province of Shandong in China, Deng traveled to California in 1988 at the age of 18 after working as an interpreter in China for a Los Angeles couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry. She stayed in the United States, under a visa sponsored by the Cherrys, to work and to study.
Deng eventually became romantically involved with Jake Cherry and, when the Cherry's marriage ended, Deng and Jake married, only to divorce less than three years later.
"The husband was much more in love with Wendi than Wendi was with the husband," Steve Fishman, contributing editor for New York Magazine told ABC News.
Deng's love affair with Murdoch began under a cloud of scandal as well.
The couple met in 1989, when Deng was living in Hong Kong and working for Murdoch's Star TV. They were married in June of 1999, 17 days after his divorce from his second wife of 31 years, Anna Murdoch, was finalized.
"She was interested in his business and he's flattered and says he wants to get to know her," Fishman said of how the couple's relationship grew.
The couple have two young daughters together, Grace and Chloe. Murdoch has four grown children, Prudence from his first marriage and Lachlan, James and Elisabeth from his second marriage to Anna.
Loyal Wife, Family Tensions"The other thing is nobody really likes Wendi," Wolff said, alluding to family tensions that arose when Deng reportedly battled Murdoch's adult children to secure a voting position for her children in the family trust, giving them access to a stake of News Corp., worth billions of dollars.
"Despite all this, she has persevered ...," Wolff said. "The feeling you come away with is this is a person with incredible faith and vitality."
As Murdoch's wife, Deng became a red-carpet regular in the United States herself, counting many of the rich and famous among her friends.
Just as the scandal embroiling her husband and her family's fortunes exploded this weekend, Deng was in New York's glitzy Hamptons, attending a screening of the film she produced, the just-released "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," a story set in 19th century China about the tough cultural norms imposed on women.
She reportedly flew to London Tuesday to be there for her husband's hearing.
"Their relationship has changed over the years, she provided him company and comfort in the early days," the Monthly's Ellis said. "[She's] probably become closer to him and more of an advisor more recently."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Murdoch’s wife leaps into global spotlight
Shanghai — Wendi Deng, who has emerged as an unlikely heroine after leaping to defend her 80-year-old husband Rupert Murdoch from a pie-wielding protester, has a reputation for fierce loyalty and ambition.
Her full-blooded swing at her husband’s assailant during a British parliamentary hearing on the News of the World phone hacking scandal has catapulted the former volleyball player into the global spotlight.
But even before that, the Chinese-born American was known as a formidable operator at the heart of one of the world’s most powerful families.
Although she holds no formal role in the company, Deng remains a constant presence at her husband’s side and is said to take an active interest in his business affairs.
The couple’s two young daughters will inherit a large stake in Murdoch’s News Corporation — a huge media conglomerate that owns newspapers and television companies around the world, including Fox and Sky TV.
Deng, who at 42 is 38 years Murdoch’s junior, met her media tycoon husband while working at his Star Television company in Hong Kong, where former colleagues have described her as an expert networker with big ambitions.
Born in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou in 1968 — at the height of the Cultural Revolution — she left China aged 19 to study in the United States, where she befriended an American couple, Jake and Joyce Cherry.
Deng initially lived in the couple’s California home, but moved out after Joyce discovered that she and Jake were having an affair.
The pair were married, but divorced after less than three years together, during which time Deng took US citizenship.
After graduating from Yale School of Management in 1996, she took an internship with Star, where she met her future husband — then still married to his second wife, Anna — at a company cocktail party.
In 1999, the pair were married in the United States aboard a private yacht that Murdoch had reportedly bought for his retirement.
The couple now live in New York with daughters Grace and Chloe, who will inherit a huge fortune after their father changed his will in 2005 to give them an equal interest with his adult children in the family’s News Corp. holding.
Under that deal, Deng will become the most powerful player in the family trust when Murdoch dies because she will act as guardian to her two children until they can claim their inheritance at the age of 30.
At the hearing Tuesday — a day her husband called the most humble in his life — she sat directly behind the News Corp. chairman and chief executive, regularly reaching over to give him a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
Pictures of Deng in an eye-catching bright pink jacket and pencil skirt dominated the front pages of British newspapers on Wednesday, along with praise for her lightning reactions.
The Daily Mail tabloid called her the ‘hero of the hour’ for springing into action, clouting Murdoch’s attacker on the head and managing to push the plate of gunk he was carrying back into his face.
Opposition parliamentarian Tom Watson, who played a key role in bringing revelations about phone hacking by the News of the World to light, finished the session with the words: ‘Mr Murdoch, your wife has a very good left hook.’