New lawyer for Wendi Deng signals war in Murdoch divorce

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 July, 2013, 2:44am

The wife of News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch, Wendi Murdoch, has switched lawyers in a move signalling that their divorce proceedings could take an acrimonious turn.

Murdoch, 82, filed for divorce last month. He married the former Wendi Deng, 44, in 1999 in his third and her second marriage. They have two young daughters.

The New York Times said Deng had hired William Zabel, a New York trusts and estates lawyer who has represented several women in divorce cases involving wealthy businessmen, including Jane Beasley Welch, ex-wife of former General Electric chief executive John Welch.

A spokesman for Deng, Christopher Giglio, confirmed the hiring of Zabel but otherwise declined to comment. Zabel's law firm, Schulte Roth & Zabel, could not be reached for comment.

Deng had been represented by Pamela Sloan, chairwoman of the Family Law section of the New York State Bar Association.

Sloan advised Deng on her prenuptial agreement in 1999.

Since then, Sloan has become friendly with the Murdochs, and Deng decided she wanted more independent counsel, a person with direct knowledge of the case told the newspaper.

Despite the pre-nuptial agreement, there are reported to be several areas that remain up for negotiation, including the custody arrangements and child support for their daughters, Grace, 11, and Chloe, nine.

The paper said another contentious issue was the Murdoch family trust, which came under the spotlight in 2006 when Murdoch mentioned during a television interview that Grace and Chloe would have the same economic interest in the family's trust but not the same voting rights as his four children from his previous two marriages.