A plot twist to rival Succession! Rupert Murdoch, 92, and his fiancee, 66, say their romance is a ‘gift from God’… but ALISON BOSHOFF asks: Will his six children see it the same way?
So billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch is to marry Ann Lesley Smith, a former police chaplain from California. The happy couple, planning a summer wedding aged 92 and 66, say their romance is a ‘gift from God’.
It will be her third time down the aisle and his fifth.
Breaking the news just seven months after his divorce from Jerry Hall, Murdoch says that he and his fiancee are looking forward to ‘spending the second half of our lives together’.
Of course, this rather optimistic statement anticipates a longevity which would be more extraordinary than anything else in his already extraordinary life story. But this new romance has clearly left him feeling younger than springtime.
His intended, a widowed radio personality and vineyard owner, adds that they share beliefs and life experiences.
Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch is to marry Ann Lesley Smith, a former police chaplain from California. Pictured: The couple holding hands in LA earlier this year
Murdoch and Smith say their romance is a ‘gift from God’ but will his six children see it the same way, asks Alison Boshoff. Pictured: Murdoch with his fiancee in Barbados in January
‘In perspective, it’s not my first rodeo,’ says Ann Lesley. ‘Getting near 70 means being in the last half. I waited for the right time. Friends are happy for me.’
READ MORE: ‘I dreaded falling in love – but I knew this would be my last’
Naturally there will be much rejoicing over the forthcoming nuptials.
Guests at the Murdoch-Smith wedding will include world leaders and other titans of the business world. He owns a portfolio of national and international newspapers, after all, including The Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the US, The Sun and The Times in the UK, plus the book publisher Harper Collins.
Members of Murdoch’s large family will also be present: He has six children, including four daughters – Prudence, 64, Elisabeth, 54, Grace, 21, Chloe, 19. Eldest son Lachlan, 51, is his heir apparent and has been running his businesses with him since 2014. Son James, 50, resigned from the board of News Corp in 2020 after ‘disagreements’ about editorial content.
As we shall see, the question of what they make of this turn of events is a story which has yet to be written.
When it comes to the event itself, the smart money is on a sunset ceremony at the Moraga vineyard in Bel Air, which is owned by Murdoch. It was where they first met, at a wine ‘mixer’ in September 2022. Here, Ann Lesley was introduced to the newly single billionaire, and he waited a fortnight before asking to see her again.
Who would have suspected that Murdoch would be such an eternal romantic as to pop the question so soon after ending his six-year marriage to Jerry Hall – and paying her around £30million?
I’m told Jerry is still weeping into her coffee as she contemplates the ashes of their love story – and that was before her ex announced he was going to marry again. She’s been quietly spending time with her four children by Sir Mick Jagger, including a Christmas break in Mustique with the Rolling Stone and all his progeny.
Guests at the Murdoch-Smith wedding will include world leaders and other titans of the business world. Pictured: Smith in the Caribbean
The Texan beauty was certain it was for ever, and blames Murdoch’s adult children – executives in his empire – for driving a wedge between them. Her friends insist that his children had a suspicious eye on efforts to revise the pre-nup in her favour, and that a to-and-fro about Jerry’s legal deal in the event of Murdoch’s death sparked their split.
READ MORE: The widowed police chaplain who helped Rupert Murdoch overcome his ‘dread’ of falling in love
Once again, events in the Murdoch family are putting the imagined dramas of Succession’s Roy dynasty in the shade. (Incidentally the hit TV show, created by Brit Jesse Armstrong, returns for its fourth and final outing on Monday on Sky.)
As to why on earth, aged 92, he would contemplate yet another marriage, sources close to Murdoch indicate that he is as moral as a choirboy when it comes to romance, and doesn’t believe much in sex outside marriage.
The role of his Christian faith was noted in a well-sourced diary item published on the American news website The Daily Beast in February, which predicted an imminent engagement. Murdoch proposed soon afterwards, on Friday, March 17, with an Asscher cut diamond, while the couple were in New York.
He told Cindy Adams, the gossip columnist for his newspaper the New York Post: ‘I was very nervous. I dreaded falling in love – but I knew this would be my last. It better be. I’m happy.’
Born in 1957, his new bride is a wealthy woman in her own right thanks to a three-year marriage to a much older man who was worth at least $50million (£40million).
She’s a forthright and sparky soul who loves dogs, fast cars, wine and Jesus – and she is suspicious of politicians and the liberal elite. In her, Murdoch has found another strong woman whom he can respect.
His first wife, Patricia Booker, mother of his eldest daughter, married him when he was 25; then came Anna Torv, the journalist mother of three of his children, followed by executive Wendi Deng, with whom he has two daughters.
Ann Lesley Smith (pictured) is a widowed radio personality and insists that friends are happy for her new marriage
All of his wives are noted for their strong personalities as well as their beauty.
Ann Lesley attended Idaho State University in 1980 on a scholarship, and then worked as a model. She then set up in business as a dental hygienist before marrying her first wealthy husband, John B Huntington, an attorney who was a descendant of one of California’s pioneering railroad families.
Huntington was on the San Francisco Ballet’s board of trustees and was a deputy district attorney and honorary deputy sheriff. The couple were prominent members of a wealthy social elite.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, she said: ‘The world just opened up to me. Almost like royalty. During the day my life was just so fun. John was into cars, and we had a stable full of every kind – exotic Ferraris and everything. I spent $65,000 (£53,000) a month on clothes easily. Money was not an object. I had everything in the world.
‘At times it was wonderful. It’s the kind of marriage anybody would have loved to have had. During the day he would shower gifts on me and praise.’ But she added: ‘When John started drinking, he became a different person. He would lock me out of the house. He physically abused me, mentally abused me, emotionally… which is actually worse than physical because you start to believe the lies.’
In the divorce which followed she found herself broke. ‘I was ashamed. It just was so different. What was I to do?
‘I’d go shopping at midnight so no one would see me. I really wanted to commit suicide because my life was just so bad.’
Everything changed when, during a modelling job, she was approached by the event co-ordinator. She recalled: ‘She takes me into the coffee shop and says, ‘Honey, I can see right through you. You’re hurting. The only thing that’s going to help you is you need Jesus Christ’.
As to why on earth, aged 92, he would contemplate yet another marriage, sources close to Murdoch indicate that he is as moral as a choirboy when it comes to romance, and doesn’t believe much in sex outside marriage
‘So she gave me [a book] The Four Spiritual Laws, and I begrudgingly took it, went home that night, and got down on my knees. I was so hurt, so alone, and so rejected. And I prayed for God to help me and forgive me of my sins… Everything in the book I did.’ She became a volunteer police chaplain, and used her life experiences to care for others, saying in an interview that she told the people she looked after: ‘I’ve been here. I’ve been here and you can get out.’
Through her prison chaplaincy, she met her second husband, country and western musician Chester Smith, who was divorced, 27 years her senior and had three children.
Smith had a hit back in 1955 with the song Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus. A successful performer, he later launched a country music radio station in Modesto, California, followed by a TV station in northern California, and then others, including a Spanish language one.
A wealthy man, he was said to have sold his TV business for $40million in cash, plus a further $45million in shares, according to one newspaper obituary.
Before his divorce from his first wife, there were homes in Carmel and Beverly Hills. After the divorce there was still clearly lots of money. He and Ann Lesley lived in a mansion on a bluff overlooking the Stanislaus river just outside Riverbank, California. There was also a 2,800-acre cattle ranch in San Andreas.
The two of them released a CD in 2005, the year of their marriage, titled Captured by Love, but just three years later Chester died of heart failure.
Since being widowed – she has no children of her own – she has enjoyed offering life advice on a radio show.
She told an interviewer: ‘A lot of people haven’t gone through a lot, and they pontificate on stuff they’ve read in a book. Like my late husband used to say, ‘Would you rather go down the Amazon river with someone who’s been doing it 35 years, or someone who’s a college professor at Stanford who’s studied it in books?’ ‘
Last year she shared her thoughts on the radio about businesses being closed during Covid. ‘They try to close down people’s business. Do they know what this is doing? It’s part of the plan, the Plandemic – oops! – pipeline. It comes and it swoops over.
‘It’s invented for the most part, it’s killing a lot of people… they’re stepping over bodies now. The way something starts is the way something ends. Trust me. That’s a little wisdom bomb for you.’
She went on to say of the pandemic: ‘Wasn’t it planned in Davos? Someone told me this was planned in – Bill Gates had a meeting in October of 2019 – holy smokes – and they did this pandemic run-through, like a fire drill like we used to do in school? And that’s what they did.’
Further Right-wing opinions were revealed when she shared an anti-Hillary Clinton post of herself on social media dressed as Sarah Connor from the Terminator films with the caption: ‘Terminator 10 – the Hillary solution.’
So how will the ‘Terminator’ get on with the Succession children? It sounds like a surefire, blockbuster hit.
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