Marriage à la Rupert Murdoch


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Aw, look at the happy couple, sitting on a bench across the garden lawn. He in his midnight suit and yellow neckwear; she in a shapely off-white gown. They look like a couple at their great-grandson’s graduation, he twinkles with paternal pride. Or perhaps they are attendees at the first VIP showing of the Chelsea Flower Show. As befits a big occasion, they have dressed the part: the only concession to comfort being his black mesh sneakers (are they Flyknits?) and what appear to be compression socks.  

In fact, this particular garden tableau is a scene of high romance: the setting for the marriage of 93-year-old news mogul Rupert Murdoch and Elena Zhukova, 67, a former biologist from Russia, who has become his fifth wife. No sources have yet confirmed who bore witness to the scene, but Tatler, source of all good billionaire gossip, has said that News Corp chief Robert Thomson, who attended with wife Wang Ping, and owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft were among those on the invite list. It is unclear whether Prudence (his eldest daughter, with first wife Patricia) or siblings Lachlan, Elisabeth and James (born of Anna, wife number two) were there to catch the bouquet. 

They have been dating since last summer, the couple reportedly introduced by Wendi Deng, who was present at the wedding and is wife number three. As you will remember, Rupert has been tearing thorough engagements: he met Zhukova only months after decoupling from Ann Lesley Smith, the former recording artist and San Francisco police chaplain to whom he was engaged for a heartbeat in the spring of ’23. 

Murdoch’s romantic ardour has been unquenched in recent years. It seems almost quaint that we were surprised to see him “stepping out” with supermodel Jerry Hall in 2013. Their subsequent marriage lasted a full six years before ending abruptly with an email from Rupert — “Jerry, sadly I’ve decided to call an end to our marriage” — in 2022. As a chapter in his dating history it seems positively traditional when considering his lusty adventures in the two years since. Murdoch’s circulatory system may require some special hosiery when it comes to standing at receptions for long periods of the afternoon, but, no compression can suppress his passions when it comes to matters of the heart. His courtship with Zhukova has been another whirlwind, reportedly conducted while bobbing around the Med last summer aboard a yacht once owned by Aristotle Onassis.

But while it’s easy to smirk at the wiles of a man within batting distance of his own centenary, this latest union adds a new layer to the Murdoch dynastic clan. Zhukova brings with her a history that casts the drama in a near Bond-like intrigue, and adds another player to what has become an almost fiction-defying succession plan. 

Little is known about Zhukova except for a few facts: a retired molecular biologist, she immigrated to the US from Moscow just before the Soviet Union collapsed. No stranger to alpha males and moguls, she was previously married to Alexander Zhukov, the Russian-born British energy investor and billionaire, who has lived in London since 1993. They have a daughter together, Dasha Zhukova, the art patron and magazine editor once married to the oligarch and one-time Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. Dasha separated from Abramovich, with whom she has two children, in 2017: during their marriage the couple amassed an art collection of more than 300 works, valued at $963mn. That collection’s whereabouts is not known, but Dasha has moved on. She is now married to Stavros Niarchos III, the grandson of the billionaire shipping tycoon. 

On Instagram, recent posts have found Dasha at the Met Gala and sharing moments with her elite art world friends. Side note: she’s also BFFs with Karlie Kloss, the supermodel and now publisher who is also sister-in-law of Jared Kushner, former senior adviser to Donald Trump. 

What a cosy web these billionaires do weave. 

Naturally, one is prompted to consider how these entanglements play out. Dasha gave money to the Democrats in support of Hillary Clinton, but the weft of influence is further complicated by various former partners, stepbrothers and best friends. At 93, Rupert Murdoch has re-established himself at the nexus of an extraordinary global squad. Who benefits in their arrangement? Does he, like some Aussie Yoda, bestow his powers upon his new associates? Or is he, in his dotage, more likely to draw strength from their respective pools?

It’s a fascinating study, in which one increasingly feels speck small. We sit here with our sad single vote and taxpayer privilege only to realise that our influence means sweet FA. 

Email Jo at jo.ellison@ft.com

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