After Jeff and McKenzie Bezos announced their plans to divorce after 25 years of marriage, Amazon investors have reacted with a shrug, with the company’s stock price flat in early trading today.
Even so, the news puts the fortune of the world’s richest man and the ownership structure of an era-defining, global powerhouse in a state of flux.
The Bezoses tweeted Wednesday that after “a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.” (See their full statement below.)
The announcement comes amid numerous reports by outlets including People, the New York Post and Entertainment Tonight that Jeff Bezos is dating Lauren Sanchez. The wife of Patrick Whitesell, executive chairman of WME-IMG holding company Endeavor, Sanchez is a former anchor of Good Day L.A. on KTLA Channel 5.
It is unclear how much of an Amazon corporate matter the split could become, especially for a company that recently became the world’s most valuable as measured by stock price. Previous divorces involving high-net-worth figures have ended up having a material impact, including those of Elaine Wynn and casino magnate Steve Wynn, and former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie. And of course Hollywood is rife with tales of studio moguls and top-tier stars brought low by marriage breakups, though all of the above occupied a much lower financial bracket than that of Amazon’s first couple.
The net worth of Jeff Bezos has been estimated at $137 billion. Washington state, where the couple plans to divorce, has so-called “50-50” divorce laws, meaning couples generally divide their assets evenly. Should MacKenzie Bezos wind up with half of the total fortune, she would instantly become the world’s richest woman.
Most of the $137 billion derives from Jeff Bezos’ 16% ownership stake in Amazon. He drafted the company’s original business plan on a laptop while driving cross-country in the early 1990s to Seattle with MacKenzie Bezos at the wheel. The couple originally met as colleagues at New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw. She also worked at Amazon in its early days before focusing on raising their four children, who are all now in their teens, and then writing two novels.
In September, the Bezoses launched the Day One Fund, whose initial $2 billion endowment was earmarked to help fund homeless relief programs and early childhood education. They also gave $10 million to a super PAC supporting military veterans trying to get elected to Congress. Aside from Amazon, Bezos founded rocket company Blue Origin and bought the Washington Post for $250 million earlier this decade. The couple also have several homes, including one in Beverly Hills.
Here is the full statement from Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos: