This Wednesday, Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos announced their plans to get a divorce. They got married in 1993, shortly after MacKenzie graduated from Princeton and started working at a hedge fund D. E. Shaw; Jeff already worked there.
By 1994, they left Manhattan’s Upper West Side and moved to Seattle, Washington. “While his wife MacKenzie, an aspiring novelist, began driving them across the country, Mr. Bezos pecked out a business plan on a laptop computer,” the Wall Street Journal wrote in a profile from 1996,
Coming back to the present day, Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest man with $137 billion net worth. Apart from the Amazon stocks and cash, the couple also owns 400,000 acres of property, which makes them one of the biggest landowners in the U.S.
This prompts an obvious question: what will happen to all that money after the divorce?
As TMZ reports, Jeff and MacKenzie don’t have any prenuptial agreement, which increases the chances of all the money getting split equally. If you open the law books of the Washington state, where they live and where Amazon is also headquartered, any assets acquired during the marriage fall under the category of “community property” — they end up getting divided 50-50 in the case of a divorce.
This line of action becomes inevitable as Bezos founded Amazon and made his fortune after his marriage. MacKenzie could get as much as $66 billion as per Amazon’s current value and become the world’s richest woman.
Usually, founders and CEOs end up avoiding the splitting of their shares by transferring other assets to the spouses. However, in the case of the CEO of a trillion-dollar company, most of the wealth is connected to shares. So, transfer of some amount of shares becomes inescapable.
Given the fact that Jeff and MacKenzie are projecting that everything’s fine and they wish to remain cherished friends, they might reach a settlement faster than shareholders anticipate. With the billions of dollars of wealth involved, their joint statement should also be seen as a way to avoid any kind of drama and bad press. They know a lot better than us that it’s bad for their fortunes as well.
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 9, 2019
For those who are worried regarding Amazon’s health in case Jeff needs to sell or transfer half of his 16% share, let me tell you that Amazon’s stock is still being called a great buy as I type this article.
This is probably because Amazon is structured differently as compared to other companies such as Facebook, Google, or Snap, whose CEOs hold a majority of voting power. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ authority over the company is backed by his strong leadership history, not by the percentage of the stocks he holds. Also, in case you forgot, he keeps selling off his shares from time-to-time to fuel his dreams of competing with Elon Musk.
Even though there are indications that MacKenzie won’t be getting involved in any kind of public spectacle, we shouldn’t dismiss this distant possibility entirely. In case she tries to use her stakes in the company to bring some big changes, 8% isn’t a significant number, assuming that Amazon’s board doesn’t end up loving her ideas.
Nonetheless, it’s safe to assume that MacKenzie realizes that their fortunes would be directly (and positively) affected by the amount of control Jeff has over Amazon. This, again, diminishes the chances of conflicts down the road.
All in all, from a shareholder’s point of view, the divorce isn’t going to matter much as long as Jeff and MacKenzie end up avoiding any lengthy litigation; it goes without saying that a CEO with instabilities surrounding isn’t something shareholders are going to love.
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