No affair with Murdoch's wife, says former British PM

NEW YORK - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has denied ever having an affair with the China-born wife of media baron Rupert Murdoch, after a flurry of media speculation linking him to the couple's break-up.

Mr Blair's spokesman reportedly told the Hollywood Reporter that "if you are asking if they are having an affair, the answer is no".

The spokesman added that the 60-year-old former British leader, who is said to be the godfather to the elder child of Mr Murdoch and Ms Wendi Deng's two children, would not be making a public statement on the matter, the New York Daily News reported.

Mr Murdoch filed for divorce in a New York State Supreme Court on Thursday, claiming that the "relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for more than six months".The 82-year-old and Ms Deng, 44, have two daughters - Grace, 11, and Chloe, nine - between them from their 14 years of marriage.

The Daily News said that the media query was likely made after a cheeky post entitled "People are Googling 'Wendi Deng Tony Blair" was put up on gossip webblog Gawker on Thursday. In the post, the author wrote: "Presumably, they're just trying to look up a column Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff wrote last year in the Guardian, headlined "Tony Blair and the Murdochs: A Family Affair".

Adding fuel to fire, BBC business editor Robert Peston – who has close links with insiders of Mr Murdoch's media conglomerate News Corp – tweeted that he had been "told that undisclosed reasons for Murdoch divorcing Deng are jaw-dropping and hate myself for wanting to know what they are".

This is Mr Murdoch's third marriage and Ms Deng's second.

An MBA graduate from Yale, Ms Deng grew up in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu and met Mr Murdoch in 1998 when she served as an interpreter for him in China. They married a year later.

Ms Deng, who is establishing a career as a film producer, acquired the nickname "tiger wife" when she leapt from her seat to slap a man who attacked her husband with a pie during a public inquiry in 2011 ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron. The inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press was established in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal at the now-defunct News of the World tabloid that was owned by Mr Murdoch.

According to Forbes, Australian-born Murdoch who now lives in New York has a net worth of US$11.2 billion (S$14 billion).