How gratifyingly ironic and, oh, how very timely. Just as viewers of Succession are left wondering whether the story can possibly ­survive the death of its patriarchal media-mogul star, Logan Roy, comes the infusion of real-world drama, ­courtesy of the very figure on whom many say the TV series is based.

Indeed, it is hard to recall a moment when fact and fiction have seemed quite so tantalisingly entwined. But yesterday, as news of the demise of Roy was filling the airwaves and social media chatrooms, a sensational report was being published into the whirlwind life and troubled times of the tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

It appeared in Vanity Fair, the snooty New York magazine which for years has forensically dissected every twist and turn in the Murdoch family’s fortunes, good and bad. In its latest issue it reveals what it claims is the inside story of how Murdoch abruptly ended his marriage to Mick Jagger‘s ex-wife Jerry Hall by email and how she, ‘devastated and humiliated’, made an effigy of her husband which she then ceremonially burned.

The extraordinary saga of how the billionaire Press baron — whose empire includes The Sun, The Times, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post — ‘blew up’ his fourth and shortest marriage is just one of a string of stunning disclosures that detail his romantic woes, the crisis reportedly enveloping his Fox News channel and how, at 92, he is consumed by the question of his succession.

Pictured: News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch photographed with the heirs to his media empire. Left to Right: James Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch

Pictured: News Corporation Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch photographed with the heirs to his media empire. Left to Right: James Murdoch, Elisabeth Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch

The article, more than six thousand words long and unsubtly headlined Inside Rupert Murdoch’s Succession Drama, would surely provide inspiration for any aspiring screenwriter.

It is, however, dominated by the inside story of his marriage to Ms Hall and its very abrupt ending. It came out of the blue in an email from the tycoon. Seen in a screenshot by the magazine, the email red: ‘Jerry, sadly I’ve decided to call an end to our marriage. We have certainly had some good times, but I have much to do . . . my New York lawyer will be contacting yours immediately.’

Ms Hall told friends she was given 30 days to vacate his Bel Air mansion in California, show receipts to prove what she took was hers and had to pack up under the gaze of security guards.

According to Vanity Fair, under the terms of the divorce settlement the model and actress was forbidden from giving story ideas to the Succession writers. So much for make-believe.

Murdoch’s private life was already under intense scrutiny since he called off his engagement to Ann Lesley Smith, the three-times-married widow of a country and western singer, earlier this month.

But while this brief betrothal to Ann Lesley, to whom he had proposed with a £2 million 11-carat diamond ring, was eye-poppingly unexpected, the same could certainly be said for matrimony to the ex-wife of the Rolling Stones frontman.

All had begun promisingly. In 2013, Ms Hall was in Melbourne, where she was playing Mrs Robinson in a stage version of The Graduate and the two of them were introduced by Murdoch’s niece Penny Fowler, a friend of Jerry’s.

They spent months emailing and talking on the phone before she agreed to a lunch date in New York. The magazine describes how Murdoch, ever the attentive suitor, filled Hall’s hotel room with flowers and chocolates.

Pictured: Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall at their wedding in St. Bride's Church on Fleet Street, London, March 2016

Pictured: Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall at their wedding in St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street, London, March 2016

She is quoted telling friends: ‘He was an old-fashioned gentleman. We laughed together non-stop.’ A couple of nights later he took her to see the musical Hamilton.

Soon they were a couple. Jerry’s friend Tom Cashin, who socialised with the pair, told the magazine: ‘They seemed to our surprise very happy and a wonderful fit.’

After just weeks of dating, they flew on Murdoch’s private jet to Texas to meet Hall’s ‘Fox News-loving family’.

Vanity Fair says Hall watched her relatives line up to receive Murdoch ‘like he was the king of red America’.

Six months into the relationship, Murdoch proposed, telling her, the magazine says: ‘Mick was so unfaithful to you. I’d never be unfaithful.’

They married in London in March 2016, seven days before Murdoch’s 85th birthday. To celebrate, he posted: ‘Feel like the luckiest AND happiest man in the world.’

His luck didn’t hold. On honeymoon in the South of France, the businessman suffered a bad case of flu.

And soon tensions crept into the newlyweds’ relationship. The reason: Murdoch’s courting of Donald Trump, who was running for U.S. President at the time and whom Jerry ‘despised’. Intriguingly, Murdoch himself had once thought Trump ‘appalling’, says the magazine. ‘Rupert knew he was an idiot,’ it reports a source saying.

As Jerry’s friend Cashin tells the magazine: ‘During dinners we had with Jerry and Rupert, Jerry wouldn’t hold back.’ When Murdoch suggested buying a house in Florida to be nearer to Trump’s Palm Beach estate, Hall refused.

The article claims Ms Hall was ‘alarmed’ by Trump’s ‘lack of qualifications’ for the Presidency.

During a lunch soon after the 2016 election with Trump, Ms Hall asked him to reroute a major oil pipeline away from Native American reservations that objected to the project.

Trump is said to have responded by asking if she wanted to serve in his administration as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. ‘It was horrible,’ she told friends. ‘I couldn’t wait to get away.’

The television series Succession: Left to right, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Logan Roy (Brian Cox), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Connor (Alan Ruck)

The television series Succession: Left to right, Kendall (Jeremy Strong), Roman (Kieran Culkin), Logan Roy (Brian Cox), Shiv (Sarah Snook) and Connor (Alan Ruck)

Then, disaster struck in early 2018 when the couple were sailing in the Caribbean aboard the Sarissa, a 140ft carbon-fibre yacht owned by Murdoch’s eldest son Lachlan. Hall was asleep in the stateroom when she was awoken by the sound of Murdoch moaning in agony.

She later told friends, the magazine reports, that she found her husband ‘in excruciating pain on the cabin floor’.On his way to the bathroom,he had tripped over a step and was unable to get to his feet. Jerry alerted the yacht’s skipper, who administered a shot of painkiller as the yacht made for the nearest landfall, Pointe-a-Pitre on the French island of Grande-Terre in Guadeloupe.

But there was more drama to come. Lachlan’s boat was so tall, it was impossible to lower Murdoch on a stretcher. And when he was finally disembarked, officials discovered that the island’s hospital was closed following a fire.

The ailing tycoon had to spend the night under a tent in a car park until a private jet could be summoned from the U.S. to fly him to hospital in Los Angeles. By then he was in a critical condition. Doctors diagnosed arrhythmia and a broken back. X-rays revealed another fracture to the vertebrae which Murdoch suggested must have occurred earlier.

Ms Hall spent months helping restore her husband to health. ‘Jerry was as sensitive with him as a full-time nurse would have been,’ her friend Cashin tells the magazine.

The following year, it claims he had another fall when he tripped over a box of chess pieces given to him for his 87th birthday and tore his Achilles tendon.

Vanity Fair says another health scare came when he ‘nearly collapsed’ at the Cotswold wedding of his 21-year-old granddaughter Charlotte Freud last July.

Only a day earlier he had been in a West London hospital with a severe case of Covid-19, for which he was being treated with oxygen and antibodies. At the wedding, where guests were dressed in theatrical attire, Murdoch, in a white suit and red suede shoes, was ­supported by his son Lachlan.

For a man who has changed wives as often as Murdoch, such domestic upheaval is nothing new

For a man who has changed wives as often as Murdoch, such domestic upheaval is nothing new

When the Covid pandemic first struck, Murdoch was understandably fearful and was ‘very careful about his health’.

He and Hall quarantined in his home in Bel Air with no staff for months, where she baked bread and cooked simple meals such as roast chicken. They spent their nights playing chess, backgammon and gin rummy. She usually won, she told friends, except when they played Liar’s Dice. ‘He’s a good liar,’ she told them.

After pandemic restrictions eased, they returned to normal life and were seen together dining in London in the summer of 2021.

But this domestic contentment did not last. Last summer, Murdoch sent the email that detonated their marriage.

Jerry was at her Oxfordshire home, waiting for her husband to arrive, when she saw it on her phone.

She was astonished, ‘blindsided’, according to the magazine, telling friends ‘Rupert and I never fought’. There had been disagreements over his anti-abortion views and what the magazine calls ‘some friction with the kids’ over her Covid rules about masks and testing.

She sued him for divorce in Los Angeles and within two months the case was settled, with both parties releasing a joint statement saying they remained ‘good friends’.

The report claims: ‘When she settled into the Oxfordshire home she received in the divorce, she discovered surveillance cameras were still sending footage back to Fox headquarters. Mick Jagger sent his security consultant to disconnect them.’

Four months after the split, says the magazine, a ‘potential answer’ for their separation emerged. It was reported that Murdoch was dating shapely Lesley Ann Smith.

Ms Hall looked back with fresh eyes on a meeting a year earlier at Murdoch’s ranch in Carmel, California, when they hosted Ms Smith, who lives near by, for dinner, Vanity Fair said. At the time Ms Smith, a former dental hygienist, was dating the ranch’s manager.

Even when Ms Smith offered to give Murdoch a teeth-cleaning, Jerry ‘didn’t think anything of it’. Nor did she much notice when he began taking solo trips to Carmel which he claimed were to spend time with Grace, then 21, his daughter with Wendi Deng.

In the end, Ms Hall concluded that Murdoch had simply ‘moved on’, the report claims, just as he had ended his previous three marriages.

Jerry, however, had her own take on this change in circumstances. She felt differently. ‘Devastated, mad and humiliated’, according to Tom Cashin — and on the first day of Lent in February, Hall told friends she made an effigy of her ex-husband, put dental floss around its neck and burned it on the grill.

For a man who has changed wives as often as Murdoch, such domestic upheaval is nothing new. Where he has deep concerns, however, is over the Succession-style future of his global empire. For running through the Murdoch family is a fault line, a rift between his sons James and Lachlan.

According to sources quoted by the magazine, the brothers no longer speak. Once James was seen as the natural successor but it is now Lachlan, more ideologically aligned with his father, who is seen as the future.

For James there is a simpler mission, the magazine says: he wants to destroy the Right-wing Fox News. It says he is horrified by the network’s embrace of climate-change denial, white nationalism and stolen election conspiracies which he sees, Vanity Fair reports, as ‘a menace to American democracy’.

But to overthrow Lachlan and get control of Fox, the report says, James needs the support of his sister Elisabeth, from Murdoch’s second marriage, and half-sister Prudence, from his first — and that is not assured. Politically Elisabeth is a liberal but she has remained close to her father and Lachlan. ‘She’s terrified of Rupert dying mad at her,’ a source is quoted telling the magazine.

But these are by no means Murdoch’s only problems. According to Vanity Fair, a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News represents ‘an existential threat’ to the network. It concerns how Fox covered Trump’s election claims from 2020. It reported bizarre theories that algorithms inside Dominion’s machines switched votes from Republican to Democrat, allowing the election to be stolen.

All in all, with such powerful dynamics swirling around the Murdoch empire, no wonder many are saying it’s more like Succession than Succession.

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