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High-asset divorce: a case of wealth on a really different scale

The recent release of a new movie version of "The Great Gatsby" has provided an occasion for social commentators to review one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's signature lines. The rich, Fitzgerald wrote, really are different.

Does that mean, however, that the rich are different in how they approach divorce? For upper-income couples in Illinois and across the county, in some ways it probably does. For example, the temptation to hide assets may be greater in a high-asset divorce than one of more modest means.

High-asset divorces can also involve struggles for control of family-owned businesses. Issues of that type have surfaced in recent years in the family of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

Media reports confirmed today that Murdoch, now 82, has filed for divorce from his third wife, who is now 44. The couple married in 1999 and have two children.

But Rupert Murdoch also has four adult children from his first two marriages. There has been conflict between those children and Murdoch's third wife over voting rights in the family trust that controls Murdoch's flagship company, the mammoth media enterprise known as News Corp. 

Curiously, the news that its founder is splitting with his wife came as News Corp. itself is also on the verge of a split. The company plans to divide itself into two companies, with one focused on entertainment and the other on publishing.

The amount of money at stake is huge. Forbes magazine puts Rupert Murdoch's net worth at in excess of $9 billion.

Murdoch's third wife will not necessarily be getting half of this amount. The couple reportedly had a prenuptial agreement that will affect their property settlement.

Source: Reuters, "News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch files for divorce from wife Wendi," Lina B. Baker, June 13, 2013

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