Taking her husband by the elbow, Wendi Deng Murdoch gently nudged Rupert Murdoch toward photographers at this year’s Oscars. It was the end of the red carpet, and the News Corp. chairman and CEO was anxious to get to his seat. But Wendi Murdoch, who towers over Rupert Murdoch even without the stilettos she was wearing, deftly ushered him toward the cameras, one of the many examples of the small, quiet influence she has wielded over the media mogul who is 38 years her senior at age 82.
Wendi Murdoch, who married the News Corp. topper in 1999 after emigrating from China at age 19, has more recently broken away from her husband to return to her interest in entertainment. She got her media start at former News Corp. subsidiary Star TV, but quit her post with the conglom before marrying Rupert Murdoch.
After starting out in TV, she turned to features in 2011 with “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” adapted from Lisa See’s 2005 novel of the same name, with Florence Sloan, the wife of former MGM chief Harry Sloan, and appeared on talk shows like “Charlie Rose” to promote the project.
Fox Searchlight, a unit of News Corp.’s movie studio 20th Century Fox, distributed the historical drama about 19th century China. The film didn’t earn the most stellar reviews (Variety said it played “like a bewildering apologia”), and it grossed just over $11 million worldwide. News of the film was dwarfed by the British hacking scandal which broke around the same time and has enveloped News Corp. for the better part of the last two years. A video showing Wendi Murdoch jumping up to protect her husband from having a pie thrown at him during his testimony in Parliament about the scandal went viral in 2011.
Wendi Murdoch and Sloan paired up to produce a second film, “Journey of a Thousand Miles,” based on the memoir by pianist Lang Lang. A New York Times profile of the Murdochs last year said that the pair was “close” to a deal with Sony to release the picture, but it’s unclear whether that deal ever closed. Reps for Columbia, Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics say those divisions have no current plans to distribute the project.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Cal State Northridge, Wendi Murdoch went to the Yale School of Management for an MBA. She has served as an adviser to the Chinese operations of former News Corp. subsidiary MySpace and is an investor in the art sales startup Art.sy.
On Twitter and elsewhere, Rupert Murdoch has been outspoken in his criticisms of the administration, but there are indications that his wife is more moderate. While she gave to Republicans and to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and John McCain, more recently, she contributed $2,000 to the Democratic National Committee in 2009, and $2,500 to the reelection campaign of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in 2012, according to Federal Election Commission records. Both Murdochs gave to Bob Kerrey’s bid for a Senate seat in Nebraska last year.