Bezos' soon-to-be ex could be world's richest woman

Mr Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie. They met when he interviewed her for a job at New York hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co in 1993.
Mr Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie. They met when he interviewed her for a job at New York hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co in 1993.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

MacKenzie Bezos could leave with $89b if assets are split 50:50, but this may be unlikely

While Wall Street has taken the news of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos divorcing his wife of 25 years in its stride, investors will be watching to see if the divorce settlement affects his control of the giant company.

Mr Bezos, the world's richest man, announced his split from his wife MacKenzie on Wednesday, saying in a statement that "though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends".

While Mrs Bezos does not hold any Amazon shares directly, Mr Bezos has a 16.1 per cent stake worth about US$130 billion (S$175 billion). Forbes magazine now estimates his overall net worth at US$137.1 billion.

Bloomberg reported that so long as the company is growing and returning profits, he will probably maintain investors' confidence.

The couple, who live in Washington state, last year pledged US$1 billion to fight homelessness in the US.

Meanwhile, the divorce could make Mrs Bezos the world's richest woman.

Here are five things you should know about her.

1 A PRINCETON GRADUATE AND AN AUTHOR OF TWO BOOKS

Mr Bezos, 54, has often acknowledged Mrs Bezos, 48, for her support when he founded Amazon, which grew from an online bookseller to become of the world's largest retailers.

Mrs Bezos grew up in San Francisco; her father was a financial planner and her mother a housewife. She studied English at Princeton University, where she was an assistant to novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison.

It took her a decade before she published her debut novel, a psychological thriller entitled The Testing Of Luther Albright, that won the 2005 American Book Award.

2 A WHIRLWIND ROMANCE

When Mrs Bezos was trying for a job at New York hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co in 1993, the first person to interview her at the firm turned out to be Mr Bezos, who was then a senior vice-president. She got the job as a research associate.

In a 2013 interview with Vogue magazine, she was quoted as saying: "My office was next door to his, and all day long, I listened to that fabulous laugh.

"How could you not fall in love with that laugh?"

Mrs Bezos, then 23 years old, told the magazine that she made the first move to woo her future husband by suggesting lunch.

Within three months of their lunch date, the couple were engaged. And another three months later, they tied the knot. The couple have four children: three sons and a daughter, adopted from China.

3 ONE OF AMAZON'S EARLIEST EMPLOYEES

Mrs Bezos was considered one of Amazon's earliest employees when the firm was founded in 1994. She helped with the accounting in its first year.

 
 

Mr Bezos has always been outspoken about his wife's unwavering support during that period.

"When you have loving and supportive people in your life, like MacKenzie, my parents, my grandfather, my grandmother, you end up being able to take risks," he had said.

4 SHE COULD BECOME THE WORLD'S RICHEST WOMAN

Mrs Bezos could become the world's richest woman with the divorce, reported local and international news outlets.

Divorce lawyer Sandy Ain told The Washington Post that the Bezos family reside in a "common property" state, which means that all the assets and debts accumulated during their marriage would be divided equally.

With Mr Bezos being the richest person in the world, a 50:50 agreement would result in the biggest recorded divorce settlement, reported The Washington Post.

This means that Mrs Bezos could walk away from the divorce with about US$66 billion (S$89 billion), making her the richest woman in the world, according to CNBC.

However, a divorce lawyer told CNBC that a 50:50 split is unlikely, as Mr Bezos' wealth is tied to his controlling stake in Amazon.

This also may not be the case if the couple have a pre-or post-nuptial agreement. The couple or Amazon have yet to comment on the likely division of their assets.

5 WAS SHE DUMPED FOR A FORMER TV ANCHOR?

Soon after Mr Bezos and Mrs Bezos revealed their plan to divorce, reports suggested that Mr Bezos has been in a secret relationship with Ms Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor and the estranged wife of Hollywood talent mogul Patrick Whitesell.

Celebrity-news site Page Six reported that Mr Bezos got to know Ms Sanchez, a former anchor of television channel Fox's Good Day LA, through Mr Whitesell. Mr Bezos and Ms Sanchez reportedly became closer after her separation from Mr Whitesell.

SOURCES: REUTERS, PEOPLE.COM, VOGUE, WALL STREET JOURNAL, CNBC, BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON POST, WIRED, THE NEW YORK POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'Bezos' soon-to-be ex could be world's richest woman'. Print Edition | Subscribe