GO
Loading...

Murdoch's estranged wife brings in legal big guns

Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch
Getty Images
Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi Deng Murdoch

Wendi Deng is getting lawyered up.

Deng has hired the well-known New York attorney William Zabel to represent her in her divorce from Rupert Murdoch, CNBC has learned.

Zabel, a founding partner of Schulte Roth & Zabel, is one of the top trust and estate attorneys in the country, and he's helped settle a lot of high-profile divorces including ones involving former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and radio shock-jock Howard Stern.

Deng's side expects this will be an "amicable divorce," sources told CNBC.

Zabel likes to do things quietly without a lot of public motions and litigation. The Murdochs had pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Under the terms of the pre-nup, Deng would receive less than $20 million, according to sources familiar with the agreement. Murdoch's wealth is estimated around $11 billion.

(Read more: The world's most expensive divorce settlements)

But her team is looking at three broad areas for negotiation to possibly get more. First is child support and the custody of their two young daughters, Grace and Chloe.

There is also the issue of joint property. The Murdochs owned a co-op in New York's Upper East Side, which is valued at over $90 million. They have the two homes in California, a home in Beijing and property in London. There is also their yacht, the 180-foot boat called Rosehearty. It remains to be seen which properties are held in both of their names.

Another big issue is the trust. This is the family trust that controls News Corp through its voting shares. Rupert's four children will control the trust after Murdoch's death, while Chloe and Grace have just an economic interest. Their interest is equal to one-sixth each, which is worth billions.

But what Deng's legal team is looking at is whether the kids' equity is adequately protected, whether there are provisions for dilution and other possible changes in the company, or if Rupert ever has other children.

A spokesperson for the 44-year-old Deng and the 82-year-old Rupert did not immediately return calls for comment.

(Read more: Rupert Murdoch files for divorce)

Murdoch filed for divorce from Deng in June after 14 years of marriage. It is his third marriage and her second. There was no reason given in the public divorce filing other than the standard language indicating that the "relationship between husband and wife had broken down irretrievably."

The divorce also came as Murdoch was is in the middle of splitting News Corp. into two separate companies, with one focusing on print media and the other focused on entertainment, television and film.


(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the address of the Murdochs' New York apartment.)

—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter @robtfrank.

Featured