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Divorce Not Seen as Threat to News Corp.

July 23, 1998|From Bloomberg News

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch could lose some control over the entertainment and media giant as part of a settlement he's trying to reach with his wife, who filed for divorce Tuesday.

Anna Murdoch may be entitled under California law to half of any property or assets they accumulated during their 32-year marriage. Anna, who serves on News Corp.'s board, cited "irreconcilable differences" in the filing. The couple have been separated since late April.

The unexpected move raises some uncertainty about 67-year-old Rupert's ability to control the company if he loses part of his family's 31% stake to Anna. Still, investors and analysts said that while the divorce may become a distraction for the media mogul, it won't affect his ability to call the shots at the company.

"Rupert owning less stock in News Corp. won't affect the stock price," said Mark Greenberg, manager of the Invesco Leisure Fund, which owns News Corp. shares. "He's chairman of the board, and that doesn't change."

News Corp.'s American depositary receipts fell 88 cents to close at $32.13.

The Murdochs "are attempting to amicably negotiate a settlement of their property and interests," said News Corp. spokesman Howard Rubenstein, who declined to comment further.

Rupert, who got his start in the media business in the 1950s when he inherited two newspapers from his father, has been handing more of the company's management responsibilities to his children.

Lachlan Murdoch, his elder son and chairman of News Ltd. in Australia, is expected to be Rupert's successor at the company, whose interests include the New York Post, the 20th Century Fox film and TV studios, and British and Australian newspapers, among others.

In her divorce papers, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Anna said she is "unaware of the full nature and extent of the community and quasi-community assets and obligations of the parties."

Should she get some of the family's News Corp. holdings, it's unlikely she would try to vote her shares against her husband, analysts say. Anna, Murdoch's second wife, serves both as a director and vice president of News Corp.

"Just because they're getting divorced doesn't mean she'll divorce herself from a successful business," said analyst Barry Hyman of Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum Inc.

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