Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and novelist MacKenzie Bezos, his wife of 25 years, have reached a settlement following one of the most high profile divorces of all time. Details of the arrangement were posted by Bezos on Twitter on Thursday evening, in which she revealed she would be keeping 25% of their previously joint Amazon stock as well as her interests in The Washington Post and space travel company Blue Origin.
She also revealed that she would be giving Bezos “voting control of [her] shares to support his continued contributions”. Prior to the divorce, the Bezos family owned a 16.3% stake in the company which made $232.8 billion last year according to Forbes. Per the agreement, MacKenzie will now own a 4% stake in the retail giant.
No further details have been revealed about their other assets, which include a number of real estate properties across the United States that NDTV estimated were worth “tens of millions of dollars”. Prior to the divorce, their joint fortune was estimated at $137 billion (roughly £107.3 billion).
MacKenzie wrote on Twitter, “Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff..Happy to be giving [Jeff] all of my interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin, and 75% of our Amazon stock plus voting control of my shares to support his continued contributions with the teams of these incredible companies.“
While neither MacKenzie or Jeff touched on their custody agreement regarding their four children, she said she was “looking forward to [the] next phase as co-parents and friends.”
Jeff also posted a statement to Twitter, which read, “I’m so grateful for [MacKenzie’s] support and for her kindness in this process and am very much looking forward to our new relationship as friends and co-parents.”
“In all our work together, MacKenzie’s abilities have been on full display,” he continued, “She has been an extraordinary partner, ally, and mother. She is resourceful and brilliant and loving, and as our futures unroll, I know I’ll always be learning from her.”
This follows an announcement at the start of the year that Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, were 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.”
Jeff is reportedly in a relationship with pilot and former TV personality Lauren Sanchez, which drew controversy earlier this year when the National Enquirer leaked intimate messages between the pair. In an essay posted to Medium, Jeff it 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. American Media Incorporated, the publisher of the magazine, have since denied his claim.
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 so many titles to her name, MacKenzie is set to add another major one to her growing list. According to BBC, her post-settlement Amazon shares (estimated at £27 billion) alone would make her the third 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”.
Neither MacKenzie or Jeff have touched on the details of their custody agreement, but both have said that they are “looking forward to [their] new relationship as friends and co-parents”.
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 Patrick Whitesell, however a source claimed to Page Six that the pair "officialy separated in the fall" and that their divorce is "effectively sealed". 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 was 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”. However, the former couple resolved matters with a settlement agreement.
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?
Per her settlement with Jeff, MacKenzie’s net worth is valued at at least £27 billion based on her 4% shares in Amazon alone. Forbes claimed that would make her at least the third richest woman in the world, however the couple have not disclosed further financial details about their real estate portfolio (estimated at tens of millions of dollars by NDTV) or their stakes in companies other than Washington Post and Blue Origin.
We spoke with Stephen Lyon, family barrister at 4PB who called the agreement "one of the most amicable settlements of all time". As an expert in the field, he provided his insight into what is likely to have happened to their other assets and speculated, "In general terms the starting point would be that it would be broadly shared assuming there was no prenup in place and that it was built up during the marriage. It is probable that as part of her share Ms Bezos will have retained their principal residence to provide continuity and security for their children."
He continued, "Many High Net Worth individuals are prepared to 'front load' the settlement by parting with more of the real estate as a trade of against on-going maintenance and allowing them to fire proof their future income by 'buying' an income clean break. This approach can also be used to avoid having to fund costly buy outs of business interests."
Prior to their agreement, it was speculated that MacKenzie could have been set to receive as much as half of her husband’s fortune, which would have meant she could have been worth $68.5 billion (roughly £43.4 billion) after the dust settled. This is because as the family lives in Washington, they were 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 were 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 had 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 have negated that figure.
MacKenzie will almost 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?
While at one point it was believed that MacKenzie would become the richest woman in the world post-divorce, her settlement with Jeff Bezos has seen her secure at least third place on the moneyed list. At the moment her net worth is currently tied to her Amazon shares, which are valued at £27 billion, which have earned her the spot but she potentially could be higher on the list as details about the former couple’s additional assets have remained scarce.
At the moment, the title of richest woman in the world is currently held by heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the granddaughter and current chairwoman of L’Oreal. Her 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.
Had the Bezos’ wealth been divided equally, Bloomberg claimed that MacKenzie would have been “the richest woman with about $69 billion”. She would have joined 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. Marketwatch claimed that it would would have made her "26 times richer than Oprah Winfrey and more than a hundred times richer than the Queen of England".