Will it be fifth time lucky for Rupert Murdoch? - GulfToday

Will it be fifth time lucky for Rupert Murdoch?

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Robert Murdoch

Emma Gill, The Independent

Once bitten, twice shy? Apparently not, if you’re one of the most powerful media moguls in the world. Rupert Murdoch’s appetite for getting hitched seems insatiable. He was in his twenties when he first walked down the aisle with a flight attendant from Melbourne, Patricia Booker, and in his late thirties he married Scottish journalist Anna Mann. As he approached his 70th birthday, he left her for the Chinese businesswoman Wendi Deng, and later, at 84, he wed former model Jerry Hall, the one-time partner of Mick Jagger.  Now, at 93, his smiling face has been all over the newspapers once again as he tied the knot with retired Russian molecular biologist Elena Zhukova, 67, at his California vineyard. “What made you fall for the press tycoon with at least $19bn in the bank?” would be a fair question for most, but Elena, who was once married to a Russian oligarch, is no stranger to billionaires. Neither is her daughter, whose ex-husband is the former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. So money may not be an issue, yet the stakes are high, and the older and wealthier you are, the more critical it is to safeguard the complex web of assets and rights you’ve acquired along the way.

Being older should make you wiser, and less likely to repeat a mistake made earlier in life. And while the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics show divorce rates at a 50-year low, there’s been a significant increase in divorce among those over 60 years of age. So-called silver splitters are now a major phenomenon.

Splitting up later in life, sometimes referred to as “grey divorce”, reflects some positive trends. We live longer, stay healthier, and are perhaps more self-aware and ambitious enough to have a second go at something that may not have worked out first time around. But research in the US, where Murdoch is waking up with his fifth wife this morning, suggests an alarming pattern. While just under half of first marriages end in divorce, the figure climbs to 67 per cent for second marriages and 73 per cent for third.

Being open to the possibility of breaking up may not be romantic, but it makes sense to be prepared. Over the last few weeks, I imagine lawyers for Murdoch and Zukhova will have drafted the mother and father of all prenups, and tidied up a whole load of other paperwork, ring-fencing different businesses and securing the inheritances of half a dozen offspring.  Succession isn’t just a TV series; in real life, managing the assets of the super-rich is big business, complex, messy and expensive to nail down. It’s not just another potential divorce that could scramble arrangements; traditional marriage vows end with a promise to stick to it “till death do us part” — something that is a long way off for most newlyweds but inevitably looms larger when you’re in your 10th decade.

Marriage affects inheritance, so updating wills is essential, as is determining what exactly will constitute the deceased’s estate. Spouses have different rights on death compared with other beneficiaries, and the battle for the boats, the vineyards, the Manhattan home, the London pad and so much more could be fierce if the lawyers haven’t tied them all down.

The courts look at marriages as partnerships, rightfully weighing up the contributions of breadwinners and homemakers as equally important. To reflect this, when coming to a financial settlement, the court’s starting point is the principle of equal sharing of matrimonial assets.  Particularly relevant for silver splitters is how pensions are treated in a divorce. Pensions are all too often overlooked in financial settlements, potentially preventing divorcees from receiving a fair settlement.

Here in the UK, the pension provider Scottish Widows estimates that women could be losing billions by excluding pensions from their financial settlements.  No one — hopefully — will have been thinking about all this 500ft up in the Santa Monica mountains over the weekend.

 

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