Jeff Bezos' wife set to become the richest woman in the world after divorce settlement

Jeff Bezos, the 54-year-old founder and CEO of Amazon Inc. announced Wednesday that he and MacKenzie, his 48-year-old novelist wife, were concluding their marriage of 25 years


                            Jeff Bezos' wife set to become the richest woman in the world after divorce settlement

When the news of billionaire Jeff Bezos' divorce from his wife MacKenzie Bezos broke, several business experts spoke of the potential it had to impact his ownership and control of Amazon if he is forced to sell off shares in order to fund a settlement, with many saying the marital breakdown could prove to be the most expensive of its kind in history.

The 54-year-old founder and CEO of Amazon Inc. announced Wednesday that he and MacKenzie, his 48-year-old novelist wife, were concluding their marriage of 25 years, Daily Mail reports.



 

While the joint statement put out by the duo on Twitter appeared to be amicable, several social media users debated exactly how much of Bezos' $137 billion fortune MacKenzie is entitled to. The pair, who share four children together, vowed to remain a family and "cherished friends". However, how the empire is divvied up would depend on Amazon's value and the marital laws in Washington state where they reside.

The state's communal property laws require assets and debts obtained during the marriage to be split equally if the parties can't reach an agreement. However, details of their divorce settlement are yet to be made public. MacKenzie possibly holds a large claim to Bezos' fortune as the pair were married before Amazon was founded in 1994. That said, she could end up with approximately $69 billion from her husband's fortune.

Jeff Bezos (L) and MacKenzie Bezos attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty)
Jeff Bezos (L) and MacKenzie Bezos attend the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Radhika Jones at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty)

While the Bezoses have not officially filed for divorce in court, Jennifer Payseno, a family lawyer at the firm McKinley Irvin, said, "The property acquired during the marriage is common property." Amazon is yet to file any regulatory documents to show if Bezos' stake in the company has changed. 

Bezos owns a 16 percent stake (78.88 million shares) in Amazon, which became Wall Street's most valuable company once again this week. On the other hand, MacKenzie does not hold any shares in the company directly, according to Refinitiv Eikon data.

According to TMZ, the wealthy duo did not have a prenuptial agreement and MacKenzie, therefore, will be entitled to half of his staggering $140 billion fortune. However, one can only be sure once the details of the settlement are officially made public.

If Bezos has to split his fortune with his now estranged wife, he would need to sell some of his shares in the company to pay for the settlement, thus directly affecting his control over Amazon. However, it is unlikely that MacKenzie would let this happen as it would adversely affect the growth of their family fortune which rests on the company's performance.

Amazon Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos (L) and MacKenzie Bezos attend Amazon Studios Golden Globes Celebration at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty)
Amazon Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos (L) and MacKenzie Bezos attend Amazon Studios Golden Globes Celebration at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 8, 2017, in Beverly Hills, California. (Getty)

A matrimonial lawyer in San Francisco, Liat Sadler, said that spouses owe a "fiduciary duty" to each other when it came to such settlements. "They have duties not to waste or devalue marital resources, and to keep the value of marital property as high as possible," she said. "I don't think there is an issue of concern for shareholders as to what will happen to Amazon because of the divorce."

According to Sadler, Jeff Bezos has two options at this juncture: He can either buy out his wife, or let her retain shares in the company. "If she trusts that he would manage Amazon well, either he should pay her for her share of the stock, or they could enter a more complicated agreement where she keeps stock and he keeps voting rights," she said.