Amazon boss heads for huge divorce deal

Top News | ASSOCIATED PRESS 11 Jan 2019

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie are divorcing after a 25-year marriage that played a role in the creation of an e-commerce company that made Bezos one of the world's wealthiest people.

The decision to divorce follows a trial separation, according to an online statement they both signed. It ended with a vow to remain "cherished friends" and the line "we would do it all again." They have four children.

Left unanswered is how assets amassed during the marriage will be split. And there may never have been more money than in this case.

Jeff Bezos is at the top of most lists of the world's wealthiest people, with a fortune estimated at US$137 billion (HK$1.07 trillion). Virtually all of it is tied up in the nearly 79 million shares of Amazon stock currently worth about US$130 billion that Bezos owns. That translates into a 16 percent stake in the Seattle-based company.

Bezos, 54, also owns rocket ship maker Blue Origin and The Washington Post, which he bought for US$250 million in 2013.

Because the pair were married before Amazon was founded in 1994 it is likely MacKenzie, a 48-year-old novelist, has a large claim on the fortune, though details hinge on where the couple files for divorce and if they had a prenuptial agreement.

Officials in upmarket Seattle suburb King County, where the Bezos home in Washington state is located, confirmed the they had not filed for divorce in court. Bezos also bought a mansion in Washington DC last year for US$23 million.

Jacqueline Newman, a Manhattan divorce lawyer, said: "For the most part they're going to want to keep things private and quiet. Especially in the case of a public company - they're not going to want information to leak as it could affect stock prices."

Amazon's stock edged up US$2.84 on Wednesday to close at US$1,659. That left Amazon with a market value of US$811 billion, more than any other publicly traded company in the United States.

Bezos' wealth has magnified the focus on him, although the divorce seems unlikely to enthrall people like breakups involving movie stars such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

But the Bezos divorce is likely to attract more attention than when Google co-founder Sergey Brin, now worth US$49 billion, divorced from wife Anne in 2015.

Amazon's origins trace back to a road trip the Bezoses took together not long after they met in New York while working for a hedge fund. They got married six months after they began dating.

Not long after that, Bezos quit his job and started an online bookstore.

While his wife did the cross-country driving, Bezos wrote a business plan on the way to Seattle - chosen for its abundance of tech talent. By July 1995 Amazon was operating out of a garage, with MacKenzie lending a hand.

"I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others represented 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," she recalled.

Amazon has since evolved from a website offering books to an e-commerce goliath that sells virtually all imaginable merchandise and runs data centers that power many other digital services such as Netflix.

It is also a leader in intelligent voice-activated speakers in internet-connected homes.

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