After their 25-year marriage, Jeff Bezos, renowned billionaire CEO of the $137 billion company Amazon, and his wife MacKenzie have officially announced their mutual divorce. This has led many to question the richest man’s decision to not have a prenuptial with so much at stake. Additionally, if Bezos loses his share in the company, there are concerns that the face of Amazon might also be altered, including Amazon Studios, of which Bezos has played a large role.
According to attorney Molly Kenny, although the divorce may be amicable, the split might not necessarily be 50-50, as long as it’s considered “fair and equitable.” The main issue at hand is how Bezos’ shares will be split, as that is considered the main source of his income. “It could be negotiated, but it might not be a big issue because she hasn’t been involved in the company,” Kenny explained. “Her interest is that the company continue to grow, succeed and be profitable. Their interests are aligned and she trusts Jeff to manage the company – just look at what he’s done.”
MacKenzie has also played a role in the development of Amazon. Often cited within Amazon’s origin story, MacKenzie has been a large part of Jeff’s successes, as well as the success of Amazon as a whole. Jeff, himself, also claimed her to be the reason for his great success. Amid the concerns, Amazon reassured the public that “Jeff remains focused on and engaged in all aspects of Amazon.”
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) January 9, 2019
It is unclear what direction this new path might take the company, but it seems that at least the funding of Blue Origin, a space initiative, will continue. According to Kenny, “My guess is they’ve already come up with or are starting to work on agreements and that Blue Origin will not be called into question. The ramifications of him stopping that are probably pretty significant for a lot of people.” Additionally, because the funds are considered a “community asset,” there should be no reason the billion dollars a year Bezos has been selling in stocks to fund this venture should end.
Nevertheless, if the assets are split 50-50, it would make MacKenzie the richest woman in the world. They have also jointly funded the Day One Fund, focused on helping early childhood education and assisting homeless relief programs. MacKenzie’s plans for the future have not been disclosed, but it has been reported that Jeff has been dating former KTLA news anchor Lauren Sanchez, who is married to Patrick Whitesell, the executive chairman of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC. Additionally, it has been confirmed that Sanchez and Whitesell have planned their divorce only two days after the Bezoses announced the end of their marriage.
Although Washington state, where the Bezoses reside, is considered a “no fault” state, meaning that an affair would not affect settlement, the state does have some laws that could make the divorce dicey. In Washington, there is something known as “community property.” This means that, according to NoLo, “money earned by either spouse during marriage and all property bought with those earnings are considered community property that is owned equally by husband and wife.” This law muddles the line between how such assets as Jeff’s 16% ownership stake in Amazon might be split since it occurred during their marriage.
Despite the media’s admonishment of Bezos for the lack of a prenuptial, the couple’s main concern seems to be focused on reassuring the public that their relationship will continue, but as close friends. The Bezoses made clear in the tweet that, “we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” adding “We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”