Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch’s new fiance has ties to California’s Central Valley
It’s gratifying to see Modesto’s strong ties to Rupert Murdoch’s fiancee, Ann Lesley Smith.
She is the widow of Chester Smith, who made a name for himself in country music but spent most of his life as a broadcasting icon right here in Modesto.
Some locals will recall that Ann Lesley Smith a few years ago had her own radio program here at AM 1360 KFIV. In various statements on her recent engagement, she credits familiarity with media in Modesto for paving the path to Murdoch’s heart.
“Like Rupert, my husband (Chester) was a businessman. Worked for local papers, developed radio and TV stations and helped promote Univision. So I speak Rupert’s language,” she told The New York Post, which broke the news of their St. Patrick’s Day engagement.
So, yeah. Believe it or not, Modesto had a role in the nation’s highest-profile love story of today.
Murdoch, 92, is best known as the chairman of Fox Corporation. In August, he was divorced from Jerry Hall, who formerly was Mick Jagger’s longtime girlfriend.
Smith, 66, last appeared in The Modesto Bee six years ago when she was hosting a Saturday morning radio talk show, drawing on life experiences to connect with people.
“The things I talk about usually are things I’ve been through,” she said told The Bee’s Deke Farrow at a coffee shop and bakery in Modesto. “I’m not ivory-towering it. … A lot of people haven’t gone through a lot, and they pontificate on stuff they’ve read in a book.”
“Smith uses the words `loneliness,` `hopelessness’ and `turmoil.’ Callers to her show often talk about symptoms rather than root causes of whatever problems they’re going through,” Farrow wrote.
She was a prison chaplain in San Francisco years before when she met Chester Smith, who had built a radio and television station empire in Modesto.
“A graduate of Idaho State University, she’s been a runway model, songwriter and recording artist (she and Chester recorded a 2005 CD, “Captured by Love”) and San Francisco Bay Area radio personality and journalist,” Farrow wrote after their 2017 interview. “She’s lived the high life, she said, and still could, but chose to stay in Modesto after her husband died in August 2008. She leads a relatively quiet life on her ranch here.”
Property records suggests she continues to own property near Escalon, although it’s not known whether she was living there when she met Murdoch, the media titan, at his Bel Air vineyard in September at a gathering of 200 people, according to various reports. He told The Post that he called her two weeks later, and proposed Friday.
Murdoch got his start in Australian newspapers in the 1950s, acquired several in the United States — including The Post — in the 1970s and created Fox News Channel in 1996, according to Fox. This will be his fifth marriage, The Hollywood Reporter says.