NEW YORK • A day after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced his impending divorce, shares of the company seesawed as investors questioned how it would affect his control of the most valuable company on Wall Street and its ambitious expansion plans.
Mr Bezos, who Forbes lists as the world's richest person, worth an estimated US$136.2 billion (S$187.1 billion), said via Twitter on Wednesday that he and his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie, will divorce.
Amazon shares were down 0.5 per cent in afternoon trading on Thursday, after gaining earlier in the session.
The divorce throws into question how the couple will split their fortune, which includes an approximately 16 per cent ownership stake in Amazon's roughly US$811.4 billion market capitalisation.
Divorce laws in Washington state, where they live, hold that property acquired during a marriage is generally divided equally.
Most analysts and fund managers are largely sanguine and say the divorce will not lead to any significant change in the company's leadership or its growth prospects.
Prominent short-seller Doug Kass, however, said he sold his stake in Amazon on news of the divorce. That was after initially buying a stake late last month and naming Amazon among his "best ideas list".
"Is it premature to ask what happens to Amazon when Jeff Bezos chooses to turn over the day-to-day running of the company he founded?" he said.
"His announced divorce gives me pause for thought."
The couple have multiple residences in the US, so there is a possibility the divorce could be filed in a state where marital property is not presumed to be divided equally.
New York matrimonial lawyer Bernard Clair said, in that case, a judge would likely determine Mrs MacKenzie Bezos' share of Amazon stock based on her contribution to her husband's success, which could include helping him make important business decisions or raising their children so he could focus on work.
Mr Robert Bacarella, portfolio manager of Monetta Financial Services, said that while he is not changing his investment in Amazon, he expects other growth-focused portfolio managers may trim their stakes due to concerns about the divorce's impact.
"This is such an over-owned company and this gives them an excuse to say 'Maybe I'll trim some back because it adds a new question mark'," he said.
Mr Bacarella, however, said he is not concerned because even if Mrs MacKenzie Bezos liquidated a stake that could be as high as 8 per cent, there would be no fundamental reason behind the sale. Any impact would be short term in nature.
"Unless you worry that he will get so distracted by the divorce that he cannot manage the company, this will be a non-event," said Mr Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.
"He is given control of the company because shareholders like him and his vision, not because he has 50 per cent of the stock."