- Elena Zhukova, Ruper Murdoch’s new girlfriend, has a past life as a scientist.
- A former colleague told Insider he was aware she had a glamorous lifestyle.
- But in the lab, she didn’t flaunt it and worked on her scientific career, he said.
Rupert Murdoch’s new flame, 66-year-old former scientist Elena Zhukova, always had a touch of glamor about her, but didn’t flaunt it when she worked in the lab, a former colleague told Insider.
Lee Slice, who shared an office with Zhukova in UCLA in the 2000s, told Insider he “wasn’t really surprised” to see the retired molecular biologist on Murdoch’s arm.
“That was sort of a circle she interacted with, as well as the scientific community,” Slice told Insider.
Zhukova was spotted vacationing with 92-year-old Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch on a yacht and the couple has been cruising together in the Mediterranean for several weeks, the Guardian reported.
The news came just four months after the billionaire called off his engagement with conservative radio host Ann Lesley Smith, reportedly over disagreements about her evangelical views.
Zhukova kept her glamorous life private
Recalling his time with Zhukova, former colleague Slice, now a scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, told Insider that it was clear that she came from wealth.
Colleagues, he said, spoke of Zhukova’s “really expensive” vacations and her expensive house.
“When I met her at UCLA, she was fairly wealthy, I think from a prior marriage,” he said. “She lived in a house in Westwood off the UCLA campus, which is a very high-end area.”
Westwood is the area next door to Beverly Hills in Los Angeles. Notable houses in the area include the Playboy Mansion, said Slice.
Russian-born Zhukova previously described her family as being part of the “Moscow intelligentsia” in an interview with The New Yorker in 2010. She was previously married to Russian oil billionaire and financier Alexander Zhukova.
“If you’re living a couple of blocks from UCLA, and a house here, you’re pretty well off. Most of the faculty had to live further away,” he said.
Zhukova took her work as a scientist seriously
Slice said that at work, Zhukova was a fairly private person and that her lifestyle was not really visible in the office. Her clothing and her car were pretty standard for a scientist of her caliber.
“She was very down to Earth,” said Slice. “She was a very good person to work with. Very smart, very straightforward.”
Zhukova left the Soviet Union in 1990, to take a position at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, before relocating a few years later to the University of California, Los Angeles, the Financial Times previously reported.
Slice said Zhukova cared about science, speaking “confidently” with colleagues at events and conferences and she was a “good supervisor” and a “good mentor.”
Her research in diabetes was respected, and could have been promising had her grant funding not dried up, said Slice. By the time she left UCLA, in the late 2000s, she had reached the status of assistant professor, Slice said.
It’s not clear whether she has worked as a scientist since then.
According to elite British society magazine Tatler, Zhukova is now known for being “at the centre of a sprawling web of power that encompasses the art world, Russian oligarchs, and one of the world’s most influential shipping dynasties.”
Her influence extends notably through her eldest daughter, Dasha, an art collector, socialite, and businesswoman who was married to Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch and the former owner of Chelsea FC.
Dasha is currently married to Stavros Niarchos II, grandson of Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos.