Billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott files for divorce

Ms MacKenzie Scott Scott filed a petition for divorce on Sept 26. Court records show Mr Dan Jewett did not contest the divorce. PHOTO: THE GIVING PLEDGE

SEATTLE - Less than two years after announcing their intention to give away a vast fortune together, billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and her husband, Mr Dan Jewett, a former science teacher, are parting ways.

Ms Scott filed a petition for divorce in the King County Superior Court in Washington state Monday, according to a copy of the filing.

The breakup punctuates an eventful period for Ms Scott, who in less than four years got divorced from her longtime husband, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, gave away more than US$12 billion (S$17.23 billion) to nonprofits and married an instructor at the prestigious school attended by her children.

Court records show Mr Jewett did not contest the divorce. The petition says any division of property is laid out in a separation contract, agreed to by the couple, which is not public. Both still live in King County, the filing says, which includes the city of Seattle.

Their marriage, which garnered significant public attention after Ms Scott's divorce from the world's richest man, had also been a philanthropic partnership, with Mr Jewett publicly promising to join her in donating their enormous fortune to good causes.

But there were recent signs that the partnership was no more. Previously, grateful nonprofits that had received grants from Ms Scott and Mr Jewett thanked them both, but recent recipients thank her alone.

In the past week his name vanished from her philanthropic endeavours. On the site for the Giving Pledge, where billionaires promise to give away half of their wealth before they die, his letter no longer appeared with hers. Without fanfare, his name was recently edited out of a Medium post Ms Scott had written last year about their gifts.

Ms Scott, a novelist, also deleted Mr Jewett from her author bio on Amazon, the online retailer that is the source of her vast wealth.

Ms Scott rocketed to global attention as she began giving away her wealth at a pace rarely seen in the philanthropic world. After her divorce from Mr Bezos, Ms Scott assembled a team of advisers and began quietly making multimillion-dollar donations to nonprofit groups that totalled more than US$12 billion in just three years.

Ms Scott promised in her May 2019 letter on the Giving Pledge to "keep at it until the safe is empty." Bloomberg has estimated her net worth as high as US$62 billion, but between her billions of dollars in contributions and the decline in the stock market, the news organisation now gauges her fortune at US$27.8 billion.

In his own Giving Pledge letter two years later, Mr Jewett sounded full of enthusiasm. "I am married to one of the most generous and kind people I know - and joining her in a commitment to pass on an enormous financial wealth to serve others," he wrote.

Yet he also noted that he had not previously considered making any kind of public statement about his charitable priorities because he had "never sought to gather the kind of wealth required to feel like saying such a thing would have particular meaning."

As recently as last week, according to the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, which preserves old versions of webpages, his letter was still twinned with hers on the site, accompanied by a photo of the two of them looking as if they were out for a hike together. Today there is just a headshot of Ms Scott, along with her letter.

Ms Scott has refused to speak publicly about her giving, declining repeated interview requests from news organisations including The New York Times.

Her lawyer did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday. Attempts to reach Mr Jewett through friends, family and former colleagues and at an address associated with him in Seattle were unsuccessful.

His lawyer declined, through a legal assistant, to comment on the divorce. NYTIMES

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