Rupert Murdoch, the 92-year-old media billionaire, and Ann Lesley Smith, a 66-year-old former dental hygienist turned conservative radio broadcaster, have called off their engagement, according to people close to Murdoch.
Murdoch and Smith were set to marry this summer, less than a year after Murdoch divorced his fourth wife, model actor Jerry Hall. According to a source close to Murdoch, Smith’s loud evangelical views had grown increasingly unsettling.
According to Vanity Fair, Mr Murdoch has grown “increasingly uncomfortable” with his fiancee’s strong evangelical views.
According to other sources, the couple reached a “mutual decision” after a heart-to-heart conversation on Monday night, during which Ms Smith expressed her frustration with being in the public eye.
The breakup brings an end to a whirlwind romance that made headlines around the world. Murdoch and Smith were first photographed vacationing in Barbados in January. Smith was photographed pulling a shirtless Murdoch from the water.
Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal reported in February that he was planning to purchase a $30 million, 6,500-square-foot co-op on Central Park South, which could have become his and Smith’s New York house. Murdoch announced his engagement in the columns of his New York Post in March. “I was quite nervous. I was terrified of falling in love, but I knew it would be my last. It had best be. “I’m content,” he told Cindy Adams, a gossip journalist.
The Daily Mail reported last week that Murdoch had given Smith an 11-carat diamond engagement ring costing up to $2.5 million.
But, as the media began researching Smith’s spotty biography, less positive headlines emerged. Her childhood is largely unknown. She married John B. Huntington, a descendant of a wealthy California railroad family when she was in her twenties. “I easily spent $65,000 every month on clothes.” Money was not an issue. “I had everything,” she said to the Christian Broadcasting Network. They divorced when Huntington became an abusive drunk, she stated in the CBN interview.
She was suicidal before meeting Jesus in a coffee shop and going on to become a street preacher in Marin County, California. “You can make it if you allow the Lord to take charge of your life.” “You may rise from the wreckage and let the oil of his anointing wash over you,” she told CBN. She later married Chester Smith, a country music performer and television entrepreneur.
When Smith died in 2008, Ann Lesley found herself entangled in a bitter legal struggle with her stepdaughters over Smith’s multimillion-dollar estate. A stepdaughter accused Ann Lesley of “financial elder abuse” in court records at one time. Ann Lesley admitted no wrongdoing when the lawsuit was settled in 2010.
Murdoch’s older children from his second marriage to Anna—Elisabeth, Lachlan, and James—were allegedly happy that Ann Lesley did not have her own children, which may have complicated the already-complex succession struggle for the future of the Murdoch corporation.
Murdoch’s third marriage to Wendi Deng in 1999, less than a month after his divorce from Anna, sparked a revolt among his adult children, who were opposed to awarding Murdoch and Deng’s daughters, Chloe and Grace, voting shares in the family trust that runs the media company.