Di­vid­ing the dol­lars

Ama­zon founder and wife di­vorc­ing af­ter 25 years

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Michael LIEDTKE, Rachel LERMAN

SEAT­TLE — Ama­zon CEO Jeff Be­zos and his wife, MacKen­zie, are di­vorc­ing, end­ing 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 comes af­ter a trial sep­a­ra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment posted Wed­nes­day on Jeff Be­zos’ Twit­ter ac­count. He and his wife both signed the an­nounce­ment, which ended with a vow to re­main “cher­ished friends.”

“If we had known we would sep­a­rate af­ter 25 years, we would do it all again,” the cou­ple said.

Left unan­swered was one of the big­gest stick­ing points in any di­vorce: how the as­sets amassed dur­ing the mar­riage will be di­vided.

And there may never have been more money than in this case.

Jeff Be­zos is ranked at the top of most lists of the world’s wealth­i­est peo­ple, and his for­tune cur­rently hov­ers around $137 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates by both Forbes and Bloomberg. Vir­tu­ally all of that is tied up in the nearly 79 mil­lion shares of Ama­zon stock (cur­rently worth about $130 bil­lion) that Be­zos owns, trans­lat­ing into a 16 per cent stake in the Seat­tle com­pany. Be­zos, 54, also owns rocket ship maker Blue Ori­gin and The Washington Post, which he bought for $250 mil­lion in 2013.

Be­cause the pair were mar­ried be­fore Ama­zon was founded, it’s likely that MacKen­zie Be­zos, a 48-year-old nov­el­ist, holds a large claim to that for­tune, though de­tails hinge on where the cou­ple files for di­vorce and if they had a prenup­tial agree­ment.

King County, where their home is lo­cated, con­firmed on Twit­ter Wed­nes­day that the Be­zoses had not filed for di­vorce in court. The cou­ple owns a home in a wealthy Seat­tle sub­urb within the county.

Jeff Be­zos also bought a man­sion in a swanky Washington D.C. neigh­bour­hood last year for $23 mil­lion. The Be­zoses have four chil­dren.

“The prop­erty ac­quired dur­ing the mar­riage is com­mon prop­erty,” said Jen­nifer Pay­seno, a fam­ily lawyer at the firm McKin­ley Irvin in Seat­tle. That in­cludes stock own­er­ship, al­though Ama­zon has not filed any reg­u­la­tory doc­u­ments to sug­gest Be­zos’ stake in the com­pany has changed. Ama­zon didn’t re­spond to in­quiries about how the di­vorce may af­fect that stake.

The Be­zoses will al­most cer­tainly set­tle the di­vorce out­side of court, if they haven’t al­ready, said Jacque­line New­man, a Man­hat­tan di­vorce lawyer and man­ag­ing part­ner at Berk­man Bottger New­man & Rodd.

“For the most part, they’re go­ing to want to keep things pri­vate and quiet,” she said. “Es­pe­cially in the case of a pub­lic com­pany, they’re not go­ing to want in­for­ma­tion to leak be­cause it could ul­ti­mately af­fect stock prices.”

Ama­zon’s stock edged up $2.84 Wed­nes­day to close at $1,659.42. That left Ama­zon with a mar­ket value of $811 bil­lion, more than any other pub­licly traded com­pany in the U.S.

The am­i­ca­ble tenor of the Be­zoses’ di­vorce an­nounce­ment makes it highly likely that the cou­ple al­ready has reached an agree­ment on how to di­vide their as­sets, Pay­seno said.

Ama­zon’s ori­gins trace back to a road trip that the Be­zoses took to­gether not long af­ter they met in New York while work­ing at hedge fund D.E. Shaw. They got mar­ried just six months af­ter they be­gan dat­ing, ac­cord­ing to Be­zos.

Not long af­ter that, Jeff Be­zos quit his job at Shaw 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 Be­zos lend­ing a hand, ac­cord­ing to a re­view she posted on Ama­zon in 2013 pro­mot­ing The Ev­ery­thing Store, a book about Be­zos and the com­pany writ­ten by Brad Stone.

AP FILE PHOTO

Jeff Be­zos and wife MacKen­zie Be­zos ar­rive at the Van­ity Fair Os­car Party in Bev­erly Hills, Calif., in March 2018.

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