Since we learned last week that billionaire conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch had taken a new fiancée with Bay Area roots, a few more details about her past divorces have emerged. And it looks like she's none too ashamed to be seen as a gold digger!
There are no doubt some family machinations going on in the Murdoch clan that are straight out of an episode of Succession, as patriarch Rupert prepares to marry Wife No. 5. And while there's plenty of money to go around, there must at least be some eyebrow raises and lawyer phone calls happening following a Daily Mail piece that covers the messiness of his betrothed's last divorce in Modesto. (It should be noted that the UK's Daily Mail is tabloid competitor to the Murdoch-owned Sun and Times of London.)
Ann Lesley Smith, as we noted last week, was last married to multimillionaire Christian broadcasting mogul Chester Smith, and the pair had an estate in Modesto — likely in addition to other properties. The Daily Mail informs us that the marriage to Smith was a brief one — they married when Chester was 74 years old, a year after he divorced his first wife, ca. 2004, and Ann Lesley was 47. Chester Smith passed away in 2008, leaving behind a sizable fortune after his 1990s sale of his broadcasting empire to Univision.
Ann Lesley Smith reportedly spent the next two years in a legal fight with her deceased husband's daughters, who sued her in court for "financial elder abuse." The stepdaughters alleged that Smith had preyed on their father, who was "physically feeble and emotionally vulnerable and unable to care for his own needs."
Chester Smith had essentially disinherited his daughters after remarrying, giving each a trust of $1 million. After the two year legal battle, Ann Lesley Smith reportedly settled with the daughters — the Daily Mail suggests they received $3 million apiece.
An attorney for Ms. Smith tells the paper, "After a lengthy period of litigation in which Ms. Smith contested the accusations, she and Chester’s daughters settled the matter amicably in July 2010, nearly 13 years ago."
Prior to that marriage, Ann Lesley Smith — whose birth name is, apparently, something of a mystery — lived for nearly two decades in the Bay Area, first working as a dental hygienist. At age 28 she met local society figure and millionaire John B. Huntington, who was 19 years her senior. The two married in 1985 and were separated four years later, according to court documents — Ms. Smith said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that Huntington was an abusive alcoholic.
Marriage made in …— Joline Gutierrez Krueger 🤦🏾♀️🖋🗒👩🏽💻📰🇺🇦 (@jolinegkg) March 20, 2023
Rupert Murdoch engaged to Ann Lesley Smith.
I’m not joking. pic.twitter.com/DBi5pfaNa0
The couple would live in Tiburon and kept a house on Lake Tahoe, and after the divorce, for at least several years, Ms. Smith collected $5,000 to $7,000 a month in spousal support, despite there being a prenuptial agreement.
As Bay Area News Group reports, a court would ultimately cut off that spousal support — Smith has characterized her story as "rags to riches to rags to riches" again. And we know at some point Ms. Smith "found Jesus" and began working as a volunteer chaplain in the Marin County Sheriff's Office.
But Smith fought hard to keep that support — per Bay Area News Group, "Smith had three mental health experts testify on her behalf, saying that she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that had left her unable to work."
But Huntington had his own expert testify, who allegedly was Smith’s own psychiatrist from 1986 to 1989. "The psychiatrist disagreed with the PTSD diagnosis and instead said he believed Smith had 'a mixed personality disorder with narcissistic, major hysterical and occasional borderline dimensions,'" the newspaper reports from court documents.
Anyone remember when, nearly 20 years ago, the Murdoch children were reportedly going to battle over their father's plan to include the two young children he had with third wife Wendi Deng in his succession planning? Now he's 92, and perhaps the only blessing with his choice of fifth bride is that she doesn't come with kids of her own. But this sure does throw a fun new character into the mix if and when such a succession has to occur!
Top image: Rupert Murdoch attends 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 24, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Daniele Venturelli/WireImage)