For most, the first warning sign that something was wrong came only on Monday, when Mr Murdoch threw his annual summer party at London’s Serpentine Gallery. The event is one of the most prestigious social invitations of the summer season, yet neither Ms Hall nor any of her family or friends attended. Had she been ill or indisposed, her retinue would surely still have attended, so the mass absence triggered rumours of a falling-out.
Even so, friends of the couple were taken aback to read reports in the US media on Wednesday night of a full-blown divorce in the offing. Those reports have not been confirmed by either side, and Mr Murdoch’s spokesmen made it clear yesterday that there would be no statement on the reports. Nor, however, was there any attempt to deny them.
It is a measure of the success of the marriage that friends struggled to come up with obvious reasons why it might be in trouble. Some pointed to the fact that the couple’s purchase of a 340,000-acre cattle ranch near Yellowstone Park in the US in December for £228 million may have been a sign of tension, rather than simply a romantic gesture.
“When they bought the ranch in Montana Rupert put his apartment in New York up for sale,” said one source. “He has always loved living in New York, but Jerry was never so keen on the place.”
As the reports of divorce percolated through the upper echelons of London and New York society on Thursday, rumours began to surface that Mr Murdoch had complained about his wife’s behaviour, and also that he didn’t like that she enjoyed a drink.
Regardless of whether there is any truth in such a claim (friends say Ms Hall does drink, but not to excess), it suggests that Mr Murdoch’s mind is made up. And, as one acquaintance put it, “when he makes his mind up about something, it’s short and sharp and that’s it”.
Mr Murdoch swiftly called time on his 14-year marriage to his previous wife, Wendi Deng, following rumours – denied by her – that she had become infatuated with Sir Tony Blair. Their “amicable” split left her with homes in China and New York, as well as cash. Even though Mr Murdoch and Ms Deng had two children together, the divorce did not affect his media empire.