Rupert Murdoch’s children are understood to be delighted at their father’s engagement to Ann Lesley Smith, largely because she won’t “deliver any new siblings”, i has been told.
Elisabeth, Llachlan and James Murdoch are also believed to have been reassured that their father, 92, will have a tight pre-nuptial agreement with Ms Smith, 66, protecting their interests in the family’s media empire.
It was widely reported that Murdoch’s marriage to Wendi Deng in 1999 did not gain the approval of his children, and the arrival of two new half-sisters did little to make the family dynamic any less tense.
But Murdoch’s three children from his second marriage to Anna Murdoch Mann, are believed to be celebrating their father’s latest love story.
“Well, it’s unlikely that at 66 years old she’ll deliver any new siblings for a start,” a source close to the family said.
“Actually, I believe Liz gets on particularly well with Ann Lesley and it has brought her and her father closer.”
When Murdoch Snr divorced his second wife in 1998 it reportedly cost the tycoon $1.7bn (£1.1bn), of which $110m was in cash.
Ms Deng, the third ex-wife of the billionaire media mogul, received a £10m mansion adjacent to Beijing’s Forbidden City as part of the divorce settlement that ended their 14-year marriage in November 2013. She also kept the couple’s three-story Fifth Avenue apartment in Manhattan, which cost $44m when it was bought in 2004, as it had become a home for their daughters.
The split did not affect operations at Fox and News Corp, which is controlled by the Murdoch family trust that held around 40 per cent of the voting stock in both companies at the time.
Their daughters Grace and Chloe also retained their shares in the trust, but under the terms of the divorce settlement Ms Deng is not believe to have not received a share of Murdoch’s media empire.
Meanwhile, the end of the mogul’s fourth marriage to Jerry Hall is believed to have involved a settlement valued at tens of millions of pounds as well as an £11m Oxfordshire mansion.
As part of the deal, it has been reported that Murdoch gave Ms Hall Holmwood House, a sprawling Georgian country estate between Reading and Henley-on-Thames.
The 66-year-old former model was also reported to have received a home in the south of France, but none of Mr Murdoch’s properties in the US or elsewhere around the world.
As a result, a leading US media expert believes Murdoch would not have left anything to chance ahead of his fifth marriage to Ms Smith, for whom this will be a third marriage, this summer.
Who is Ann Lesley Smith?
The young Ann Lesley Krohn was brought up in cowboy country, the small Californian city of Petaluma in Sonoma County.
Her predecessors at the local high school included Hollywood legend Lloyd Bridges, while movie star Winona Ryder left some 14 years after the young Ms Krohn graduated in 1975.
But local journalist David Templeton, believes it may have been the politics of Petaluma, around 40 miles north of San Francisco – rather than its Hollywood stars – which had the most influence on its latest famous export.
“Petaluma is a conservative town,” the Argus-Courier reporter said. “It’s an agricultural area and that’s reflected in the more conservative views of its residents.”
While the marriage will be Murdoch’s fifth effort at marital bliss, Ms Smith has also been married before.
After graduating from Idaho State University, she had a short-lived career as dental hygienist, before juggling radio journalism with being a singer-songwriter and part-time model.
This eclectic early career preceded her first marriage in 1985 to lawyer John B Huntingdon, a wealthy member of one of California’s first railway-owning families.
But divorce followed, to escape what she described as years of emotional and physical abuse. Afterwards she embraced evangelical Christianity and saw her career take another turn as she became the San Francisco police chaplain.
In 2005, aged 51, she married country singer Chester Smith, becoming Ann Lesley Smith. Her second husband, 24 years her senior, owned a ranch in the northern Californian city of Modesto, as well as enjoying a successful radio and television empire.
He died after three years of marriage and, after a legal battle with his three daughters, Ms Smith inherited his ranch, where she still lives.
Mr Templeton said the reaction to Petaluma’s newest famous resident has been mixed.
“Very few people had any idea who she was until her engagement to Murdoch was announced last week,” he says. “But there has been a lot of interest when people learned she was from Petaluma.
“Some people simply wish her good luck, and some people suggest she’s marrying the 92-year-old Murdoch for a billion reasons.”
It was last September when Ms Smith found herself invited to a wine industry event at Murdoch’s Moraga vineyard in Bel Air, LA, where she met the host.
Now, just seven months after his divorce from Ms Hall, the pair are engaged.
Murdoch proposed during St Patrick’s Day festivities in New York with an Asscher-cut diamond solitaire engagement ring that he “personally selected”.
According to Vanity Fair, Ms Smith has hired a personal shopper and, with additional assistance from some close friends, is “feverishly“ searching for “the perfect gown” for the wedding, which is scheduled for this summer.
Once they have tied the knot the couple plan to divide their time between Murdoch’s homes in the UK, Montana, New York and California.
Announcing the engagement in the New York Post, which is owned by Murdoch’s News Corporation, he said: “I was very nervous. I dreaded falling in love, but I knew this would be my last. It better be. I’m happy.”
“There’s no possibility the kids’ legal teams have allowed him to enter into a second post-Wendi Deng nuptial without ensuring the financial implications are tightly sewn up,” said David Flokenflik, media correspondent for National Public Radio in New York.
“She will no doubt be well remunerated in event of his demise or even the demise of his affections by any rational measure.
“But I cannot imagine it will affect the inheritance or the structure of News Corp./Fox Corp. They went through that with Ms Deng and their girls.”
Jo Farrands, a partner and head of family law at Moore Barlow, added: “It would be very strange if there was no pre-nuptial agreement and also very risky.
“Without a pre-nuptial agreement potentially all of his pre-acquired wealth and businesses could be considered for division in the event of a divorce particularly if his new wife had a strong needs argument when the marriage broke down.”
Ms Farrands also suggested that Mr Murdoch’s advanced age would require strict pre-nuptial agreement being in place.
“Capacity is something to watch out for given Murdoch’s age. Is he still in control of his financial situation and aware of what there is and, also, what the risks are if the marriage breaks down.”
Murdoch’s marriage history
Anna Murdoch Mann
Children: Elisabeth, Llachlan, James
Children: Grace and Chloe
Ann Lesley Smith