NEW YORK • Mrs MacKenzie Bezos, the soon-to-be former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has promised to donate half her fortune to charity, joining the ranks of the world's ultra-wealthy philanthropists, the Giving Pledge announced on Tuesday.
The charitable organisation, founded in 2010 by Mr Warren Buffett and Mr Bill Gates, listed Mrs Bezos, an American, among 19 new signatories of the pledge from China, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Britain. She instantly became one of the world's wealthiest individuals last month, gaining a net worth estimated at US$36 billion (S$49.8 billion) after finalising the terms of her divorce with Mr Bezos, the world's richest man.
"In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share," Mrs Bezos said in a letter announcing that she was joining the pledge. "My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won't wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty."
As part of the couple's pending divorce, Mrs Bezos is to retain 25 per cent of the Amazon shares the pair had held jointly, equal to about 4 per cent of the company, but will surrender all her voting rights.
More than 200 people have taken the Giving Pledge, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, investor Bill Ackman, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and investor Robert F. Smith, who made waves earlier this month by announcing he would pay off the student loans of an entire graduating class at the historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr Bezos, whose fortune is currently estimated at well over US$100 billion, has not taken the pledge but in September announced a US$2 billion investment fund intended to support homeless families and education in poor communities.
Mrs Bezos, born MacKenzie Tuttle, met Mr Bezos in 1992, before he founded what would become the global online retail, tech and government contracting behemoth Amazon. The company is worth nearly US$900 billion.
The announcement of their divorce in January was followed several weeks later by the publication of personal text messages between Mr Bezos and Ms Lauren Sanchez, a television personality with whom he had an extramarital affair.