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News Corp's Rupert Murdoch files for divorce from wife

Rupert Murdoch and wife Wendi Deng were married in 1999. Murdoch has filed for divorce, reports CNBC's Robert Frank.

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp's chief executive and one of the richest men in America, has filed for divorce from his third wife Wendi, a spokesman for the company confirmed to CNBC on Thursday. 

The reasons for the split were not immediately clear, but sources said the couple had been leading largely separate lives after 14 years of marriage.

The company spokesman said the relationship had been irretrievably broken for more than six months before he filed for divorce Thursday.

Born in China and educated in the U.S., the former Wendi Deng was working for News Corp. subsidiary Star TV in Hong Kong when she met Murdoch in 1997.

Two years later, Murdoch, 82, married Deng, 44, on a yacht in New York Harbor — less than three weeks after his divorce from second wife, Anna, was finalized. They have two daughters, born in 2001 and 2003.

After the wedding, Wendi remained involved in the conglomerate's Chinese interests and Internet and film ventures, and she produced the 2011 feature "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" for Fox Searchlight pictures. In Oct. 2012, Murdoch gave his wife a shout-out on Twitter for her "hard work" on the website Art.sy.

In July 2011, the onetime volleyball player became the unexpected star of a British hearing into phone hacking by News Corp. when she tried to smack a protester who went after husband with a foam pie.

Matt Sayles / AP file

Rupert Murdoch and his wife Wendi arrive at the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles, on Jan. 15, 2012. On Thursday, Murdoch filed for divorce from Wendi Deng Murdoch, his wife since 1999.

Murdoch's net worth was listed at $11.2 billion by Forbes in March, ranking him 33rd on the U.S. billionaire's list.

The divorce filing comes just ahead of News Corp.'s planned split into two separate publicly traded companies, one for its entertainment businesses and the other for publishing.

The couple has a prenuptial agreement the terms of which give Wendi Murdoch cash and property, not company control, sources told CNBC.

Murdoch is being represented by veteran Manhattan defense attorney Ira Garr, whose high-profile clients have included Ivana Trump. Garr's office said he would have no comment.

Raoul Felder, a Manhattan divorce lawyer who has represented ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and actress Robin Givens and is not involved in the Murdochs case, said he expected the split would be very private.

"They sit down in a lawyer's office and the lawyers prepare papers," Felder said. "They'll never see the inside of a courtroom."

He said that given Murdoch's immense wealth, it's likely his wife is getting enough of a payout that she would not challenge any agreement, especially since prenups are rarely overturned.

"Money is a cheap currency when you have a lot of it," Felder said. "I'm sure he was very generous.'

Bernard Clair, another well-known Manhattan divorce attorney, said the globe-trotting CEO may have chosen to file in New York, where he has a home, because it's "a place where prenups are generally given a significant amount of presumptive validity by the courts."

It's also possible the prenup stipulates that it must be interpreted and enforced according to New York law, Clair said.

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