Post-Nuptial

07.08.13

Tina Brown on Sex, Decorating, and Divorce for Billionaires

Eighty-two-year-old Rupert Murdoch won't stay single for long. Nor do any lonely members of his tycoon cohort. What their next wives should expect.

Rupert Murdoch, I’m told, was sighted upstate last week at Roger Ailes’s Fourth of July party, his sleeves rolled up and looking 20 years younger. There’s nothing like announcing you are starting divorce proceedings against your 44-year-old third wife to make an 82-year-old billionaire feel the onset of spring again.

As a Fox anchor emailed her friends when the news broke, “Ladies, rev your engines.”

Except for the age of the newly single men on the dating market—80 is the new 55—it is astonishing to see how nothing has changed in the social dynamics of divorce. The ease with which the Viagra set can find themselves a younger wife, compared to women of the same age (or even 20 years younger), remains the same since the William Howard Taft era. Plus, high-gloss girlfriends who close the marriage deal often now discover that, thanks to the little blue pill, there is no safe plateau even for third wives.

Eighty-year-old Leonard Lauder, of the multibillion-dollar cosmetics fortune, who was widowed in 2011 after 52 years of devoted marriage to the esteemed Evelyn, appears poised to marry 54-year-old Linda E. Johnson, an elegant brunette and president and CEO of the Brooklyn Public Library. Their whirlwind courtship left in the dust the battalion of 65-year-old Park Avenue widows who thought charming rendezvous at the same dinner parties in Aspen for years meant they might be the next Mrs. Lauder.

This summer in Southampton, the portentous 82-year-old Hungarian philanthropist George Soros, who is worth about as much as the national debt, is tying the knot for the third time to 40-year-old Japanese-American Tamiko Bolton. He proposed last summer, apparently with a Graff diamond ring in a platinum setting on a rose gold band. Hard news for his ex-mistress, a Brazilian soap-opera star who in 2010 allegedly hurled a glass light at him when she learned he was allocating their shared $2 million Manhattan love nest to another woman.

It’s hard to imagine any of these newly eligible guys needing to post their dating profile on Match.com. But that’s what 71-year-old media goddess Martha Stewart announced she is doing on the Today show in May, adding that she is “open to all kinds of people” and loves “to be surprised.”

For years I have had a “Sex and Decorating” theory of rich divorces: the more decorating going on, I have surmised, the less that sex is a wifely priority. Excited at the châtelaine role of multiple houses; the attention of art buyers, fashion consultants, interior designers, and purveyors of fine antiques; and more deadly still, the envy of others in competition for the attention that goes with them, former mistresses forget why they were signed up in the first place. Their husbands on the dinner-party circuit start to get that rogue-elephant look that signifies their first request for an update on the small print in the pre-nup.

He began to find her a hyper-social irritation with a challenging Chinese accent.

The alluring, sexually direct Wendi Deng briefly became an icon of uxorious protectiveness when she leapt in front of her husband during a British parliamentary committee hearing on phone-hacking, slapping an assailant bearing a shaving-cream pie. All agree she gave Rupert an extended second wind before he began to find her a hyper-social irritation with a challenging Chinese accent. “I don’t understand a word she says,” he confided to a mutual friend after 10 years of marriage.

What’s interesting about the new crop of billionaire-geezer engagements is that formerly termed “cupcakes” are out of style. Wendi Murdoch, a glamorous dynamo whom I have always found extremely engaging, was the harbinger of this billionaire dating trend. She has an MBA (from the Yale School of Management), and so does the next Mrs. Soros, who started an Internet dietary-supplement-and-vitamin-sales company and now has developed a “web based yoga platform.” Leonard Lauder’s charming fiancée likewise is a businesswoman of substance.

What an encouraging trend! Except will it lead to the blooming a few years hence of a new marital theory of Sex and Substance Overload?

One common denominator of super-affluent alpha men is the conviction, unchallenged every day, that the world revolves around them. It’s not enough anymore to have a good-looking geisha in your life who nurtures your off-duty creature comforts. No, today what they want is a fabulous-looking, high-powered, boldface Washington-networked alpha woman in her mid-30s or well-groomed 40s who at the same time will be able to drop everything and sail off on a boat to the Virgin Islands or perform like a porn star the same week as a board meeting (hers).

Stay tuned for more wedding news is all I can say.