Millennium Post

Alimony wars: Wendi Murdoch hires divorce specialist

Looks like it’s going to rain acrimony over alimony. As a month draws to a close since British media mogul Rupert Murdoch hurled divorce papers toward his wife of 14 years, Wendi Murdoch, the aggrieved wife has taken matters to a different plane and hired William D Zabel, a well-known New York trusts and estates lawyer who has bravely wrested victories from big shot Americans and made their bitter halves holding humongous alimony cheques in return.

The biggest celebrity separation handled by Zabel has been of Jane Beasley Welch, when she had her controversial split from John F Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric.
Formerly, Wendi Murdoch had been represented by Pamela M Sloan, who advised the now livid third wife of Rupert Murdoch on her prenuptial agreement in 1999, when the couple married in front of 82 guests on board his 155-foot sailing yacht, the Morning Glory.

Although the Murdochs signed a prenuptial agreement and two postnuptial agreements delineating the separation of assets in the event of a divorce, there are a number of areas that remain up for negotiation, said people with knowledge of the case who spoke only on the condition of anonymity.
Custodial arrangements still need to be straightened out, particularly child support for the Murdoch daughters, Grace, 11, and Chloe, 9, and the couple has reportedly decided to keep them out of the alimony negotiations, that are bound to get rather nasty.

Other issues that could be contended include the division of certain assets, like their Fifth Avenue penthouse and the yacht, on which Wendi Murdoch, 44, and her daughters are currently vacationing in the Caribbean.

There is also the contentious issue surrounding the Murdoch family trust. Mr Murdoch surprised his wife in 2006 when he announced during a television interview with Charlie Rose 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. The slip almost created a separation, and prompted Mrs Murdoch to negotiate more favorable terms for her daughters, according to people close to the couple. Mr Zabel, an expert in trust law, is expected to examine the soundness of the trust structure.

‘Even with the most sophisticated couple, unless you have perfect 20/20 foresight often some issues can arise that weren’t taken into consideration and are prime for negotiation,’ said Paul M Talbert, a divorce lawyer at Donohoe Talbert in New York, who is not involved in the Murdoch case.
Representing Mr Murdoch, 82, in the divorce proceeding is Ira E Garr of the law firm Garr Silpe. But Mr Murdoch is also relying heavily on the advice of Gerson A Zweifach, the general counsel of both News Corporation and 21st Century Fox, as the newly separated companies are now known.

Rupert Murdoch’s 1998 divorce from his second wife, Anna, had cost more than $110 million in cash.
Wendi Murdoch, after interviewing about eight different lawyers, including leading members of the matrimonial bar like Robert Stephan Cohen and Peter E Bronstein, chose Zabel. Initially, Wendi Murdoch did not have time to screen potential divorce lawyers and turned to Sloan, a trusted confidante, by default.
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