Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has hit out at the National Enquirer claiming he was subjected to 'extortion and blackmail' in connection to a series of lewd pictures the tabloid had obtained and were threatening to publish.
The pictures allegedly featured intimate snaps of Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, the TV anchor with whom the publication had reported earlier this year he was was having an affair.
This follows last month's announcement that Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, are planning to divorce. In a joint statement published to Twitter on January 9, they wrote, “We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”
The couple, who have four children together, are divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
Jeff Bezos is the world-famous tech billionaire founder of Amazon, but his wife MacKenzie Bezos is also known as an award-winning author, Toni Morrison’s protégé and a staunch anti-bullying campaigner. Recently, they were jointly announced as the biggest philanthropists of 2018 and donated $2 billion through their Bezos One Day Fund to various charities supporting the homeless.
With her husband’s fortune of $137 billion (roughly £107.3 billion) on the table, the divorce could see MacKenzie add one more title to the list: richest woman in the world.
Who is MacKenzie Bezos?
MacKenzie Bezos is an award-winning author with two novels under her belt: her debut novel The Testing of Luther Albright which was published in 2005 and Traps, which followed it in 2013. Her first novel won her the 2005 American Book Award. It was a labour of love, as she explained to Vogue, taking a decade and “a lot of tears” to write.
Her creative writing skills were honed under the tutelage of acclaimed writer Toni Morrison while she was studying at Princeton University.
Morrison revealed to Vogue that she was enamoured with MacKenzie's writing, saying she was “one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative-writing classes”.
Morrison subsequently recommended a literary agent to her pupil, which set MacKenzie on her path.
MacKenzie has said of writing, “I am a better person when I am writing and I am probably a better mother because I can focus all that laser attention on these characters rather than worrying about my kids.”
Beyond her literary accomplishments, she is also notable for her humanitarian work. She launched an anti-bullying organisation named Bystander Revolution in 2014, which aims to “create a source of direct, peer-to-peer advice about practical things individuals can do to help defuse bullying”.
Since its launch, the organisation has worked with notable ambassadors including Monica Lewinsky, Demi Lovato, Salma Hayek and Michael J. Fox.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky)June 8, 2015
MacKenzie and her husband also have a charity project together called the Day One Fund, which aims to help homeless families and create non-profit preschools in low-income communities.
In the official launch statement, Jeff Bezos said, “MacKenzie and I share a belief in the potential for hard work from anyone to serve others. We all have that capacity.”
How did MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos meet?
MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos met back in 1992. Back then, Jeff Bezos worked at a New York hedge fund called D.E. Shaw. When Mackenzie walked in for an interview, as fate would have it, Jeff was “the first person she interviewed with” according to Vogue.
Jeff added in the same Vogue profile, “I think my wife is resourceful, smart, brainy, and hot, but I had the good fortune of having seen her résumé before I met her, so I knew exactly what her SATs were.”
MacKenzie then landed a job as a research associate and was apparently the mastermind behind their eventual romance, suggesting first that they go for lunch. After just three months of dating, Mackenzie married Jeff Bezos in 1993 at the age of 23.
She told Vogue, “My office was next door to [Jeff’s], and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh. How could you not fall in love with that laugh?”
Do they have children?
The couple have four children - three sons and a daughter, who was adopted from China. The names of their children are not publicly known, but they are estimated to be between thirteen and eighteen years old.
MacKenzie has spoken in the past about motherhood as well as her and Jeff’s shared parenting style, revealing she initially had to put her writing career on hold when the couple had children.
She also revealed that they had “experimented with homeschooling”, adding that they had tried “off-season travel, kitchen-science experiments, chicken incubation, Mandarin lessons, the Singapore math program, and lots of clubs and sports with other neighbourhood kids”.
MacKenzie told Vogue she also rents a separate studio apartment as a writing office to ensure she gets an “undistracted day of writing”, but that she “picks the kids up and drops them off in her Honda minivan”.
Why are MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos getting a divorce?
Jeff Bezos posted a joint statement from the couple to Twitter, which explained that they had “decided to divorce and continue [their] shared life as friends”. They also revealed that prior to their divorce announcement, they had undergone “a long period of loving exploration and trial separation”.
It has also been claimed by outlets including TMZ, Vox and the National Enquirer that Jeff Bezos is currently dating former So You Think You Can Dance host Lauren Sanchez, though a source stressed to Vox that Jeff and MacKenzie had separated prior to his reported relationship with Sanchez. The Enquirer via E! News also claimed that Bezos’ lawyer said it was “widely known” that the pair had been “long separated”.
A source told Vox, “[Jeff] and MacKenzie have been working on this for a long time, and they worked very hard to fix it. Then they became separated, and then Jeff started dating Lauren.”
The source also added that the divorce statement had been written by both Jeff and Mackenzie, and additionally that it should be “taken at face value”.
Lauren Sanchez is also currently married to WME CEO Patirck Whitesell, however a source claimed to Page Six that the pair "officialy separated in the fall". Sanchez reportedly has two children with Whitesell, as well as a son from a previous marriage.
A source also claimed to People that both Whitesell and Mackenzie found out about Sanchez and Jeff's relationship around the same time. E! News also reported that Jeff Bezos has since been seen in public no longer wearing his wedding ring.
Was there a MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos prenup?
According to TMZ, the couple did not get a prenup prior to their marriage. The TMZ sources, who claim to have direct knowledge of the situation, also added that the couple would be filing for divorce in Washington.
That means that MacKenzie is technically entitled to half of Bezos’ net worth, according to People. Since Washington is a community property state, “all assets and debts accrued during the marriage are considered owned equally by both spouses unless there was a prenuptial agreement stating otherwise”.
What is MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos’ combined net worth?
According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Jeff Bezos is worth $137 billion (roughly £107.3 billion) as of January 11, 2019. He is worth $43.5 billion more than Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is the next richest person on the list. However, Jeff could see his net worth plummet following the proceedings of his divorce with MacKenzie.
In the early days, MacKenzie was reportedly involved in Amazon’s business dealings. According to a 1999 Jeff Bezos profile with WIRED, she actually secured the company’s first freight contracts from inside a Barnes and Noble Starbucks - a favourite business meeting spot for the then-fledgling tech start up.
She also revealed her ties to the business were deep ones when in a fierce review of a Jeff Bezos biography on (you guessed it) Amazon, she wrote, “I worked for Jeff at DE Shaw, I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others… in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history.”
Since then, Amazon has become a sprawling giant and owns a number of various businesses including The Washington Post, space tourism company Blue Origin, Whole Foods, IMDb, live-streaming site Twitch and Audible.
What will MacKenzie Bezos’ net worth be after divorce?
According to CNN, MacKenzie is set to receive as much as half of her husband’s fortune, meaning she could be worth $68.5 billion (roughly £43.4 billion) after the dust settles. This is because as the family lives in Washington, they’re subject to the state’s community property laws which means “assets accrued during the marriage must be split equally in a divorce”. Given that Amazon was launched in 1994, a year after their marriage, Jeff’s subsequent profits are on the table.
Lawyer Karin Lundell, a partner at Rower LLC, told Bloomberg that “without an agreement stipulating otherwise, their wealth would almost certainly be divided equally”.
It would have major ramifications for Amazon according to Vox, who said that an equal division of assets “would require that Bezos sell some of his stock in Amazon”. It would therefore “dilute his control of the company” and potentially impact his role as the company’s public figurehead.
CNN did point out that it is currently unknown if the pair signed a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, which could negate that figure. Additionally, the couple could also choose to file for divorce in a different non-community property state - they own homes in California, Texas and Washington D.C. to name just a few. According to Fortune, the couple also reportedly own at least five homes around the United States, which could become collateral in the divorce.
She'll certainly continue her philanthropic endeavours. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, she and Jeff donated more money to charities than anyone else in the world last year. They gave $2 billion to non-profits that help homeless families and build preschools in low-income communities through her and Jeff's Bezos Day One Fund. Other billionaires on the list include Michael Bloomberg who donated $767 million, Pierre and Pam Omidyar with $392 million and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman with $390 million.
Could MacKenzie Bezos become the richest woman in the world?
If the couple file for divorce in Washington and their wealth is divided equally, Bloomberg claims that MacKenzie would be “the richest woman with about $69 billion”. At the moment, that title is currently held by heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers - the granddaughter and current chairwoman of L’Oreal - whose family owns 33% of the company’s stock.
According to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index, she is currently valued at $45.7 billion (roughly £35.75 billion) as of January 11, 2019.
Were Mackenzie to receive half of Bezos’ assets, she would join her former husband in the top ten billionaires list - edging out Spanish billionaire and Inditex founder Amancio Ortega (valued at $61.4 billion) to slide into fifth place. She would follow Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Bernard Arnault.
Marketwatch claimed that it would make her "26 times richer than Oprah Winfrey and more than a hundred times richer than the Queen of England".