Celebrity divorces often make headlines, but few could claim that their divorce has received as much attention by the press as that of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. With so much media focus, it is no surprise that reputation management in divorces such as this becomes a necessity.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the timeline of Depp and Heard’s divorce and discuss the impact reputation management can have.
Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s divorce: what is the background?
It has been reported that Depp and Heard began dating “around the end of 2011 or the start of 2012.”
Rumours began to circulate that the couple were engaged after Heard was spotted wearing an engagement ring in 2014.
They then married in a private ceremony in 2015.
In May 2016, Heard filed for divorce from Depp and, a few days later, obtained a temporary restraining order against him, alleging that he had physically abused her during their relationship. This abuse, she claimed, usually took place while he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Depp denied these accusations and reportedly alleged that Heard was “attempting to secure a premature financial resolution by alleging abuse.”
Depp and Heard eventually reached a $7 million settlement (which Heard reportedly donated to charity) out of court, after Heard withdrew her domestic violence restraining order request and also revoked her request for spousal support of $50,000 per month.
The ex-couple then released a joint statement, explaining:
“Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love. Neither party has made false accusations for financial gain… There was never any intent of physical or emotional harm.”
The divorce was then finalised in 2017.
In 2018, Heard wrote a piece in The Washington Post about domestic abuse.
“I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out,” she said.
There was no explicit mention of Depp in the piece.
Depp then sued Heard for $50 million for defamation over the article in 2019.
Heard countersued Depp in 2021 for $100 million after her attempt to move the case to California was denied.
This battle played out very much in the public eye during a six-week long trial, with the jury ultimately finding that Heard had defamed Depp with the article. Depp was awarded $15 million in compensatory and punitive damages and Heard, who won one of three counter-claims against Depp, was awarded $2 million in compensatory damages.
Reputation management in a divorce: how does it help?
Since the divorce, there is no doubt that Depp’s reputation in Hollywood and beyond is not what it used to be, arguably causing him to lose a great deal in potential earnings.
However, since the start of the recent defamation suit (before the jury found that Heard had defamed Depp), the tide seemed to be turning somewhat, with the hashtag “#Johnnydeppisinnocent” gathering more than a billion views on social media.
Justin Ali, the founder of CherryRed PR, told Forbes magazine that Depp seems to have benefited from “a premium display of the finest of PR”.
Ali told Forbes that, “with the culture of social media trials and public outrage at the drop of a hat, PR has never been as important as it is today.”
In the days of social media, it can take a matter of minutes for a reputation to be damaged. Emotions run high during a divorce and it takes just one angry social media post following an argument for damaging words to reach hundreds, thousands or even millions of readers. This can have both personal and professional ramifications.