Just over a month after Rupert Murdoch surprised his wife of 14 years with divorce papers, Wendi Murdoch has switched lawyers, a move signaling that the separation could take an acrimonious turn.
Mrs. Murdoch has hired William D. Zabel, a well-known New York trusts and estates lawyer who has represented several women in their divorces from wealthy businessmen, including Jane Beasley Welch during her contentious split from John F. Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric.
Mrs. Murdoch had been represented by Pamela M. Sloan, who advised Mrs. Murdoch on her prenuptial agreement with Mr. Murdoch in 1999, when the couple married in front of 82 guests on board his 155-foot sailing yacht, the Morning Glory.
But since then, Ms. Sloan had become friendly with the Murdochs, and Mrs. Murdoch decided that she wanted more independent counsel, said a person with direct knowledge of the case who like many people declined to be identified discussing personal matters.
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.
Under the terms of the pre-nup, Deng would receive less than $20 million, according to sources familiar with the agreement. Murdoch’s wealth is estimated around $11 billion. Come on! No way! That’s chump change!