Wednesday 3 July 2019

The $38B divorce: Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are about to officially split

One of the biggest wealth transfers in history is expected in coming days.

With the flick of a judge’s pen, a $38 billion stake in Amazon will pass to MacKenzie Bezos as part of her separation from company founder Jeff Bezos.

“This is the Godzilla of all divorces,” said Peter Walzer, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and founding partner of Walzer Melcher. “Nothing comes close to it because of the amount of wealth that’s being divided.”

A regulatory disclosure detailing the shift in ownership is expected in early July, according to an April filing. It will provide a rare glimpse inside the world’s richest divorce, a result of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules that require insiders to disclose changes in their holdings.

While divorce cases aren’t secret in Washington state, little else is expected to be revealed. “Even in states where it isn’t confidential parties can file for divorce but not attach their settlement agreement,” Walzer said. “There are ways around the public nature of divorce.”

Jeff Bezos, 55, remains the world’s richest person, with a 12% Amazon stake worth $112 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He’ll retain other assets, including the Washington Post and space-exploration company Blue Origin, MacKenzie Bezos, 49, said in an April tweet.

The amounts involved are unprecedented. While’s Larry Ellison has been through multiple divorces, none has affected his stake in the software maker. Likewise, Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s stake remained unchanged after he and Anne Wojcicki divorced without fanfare in 2015.

Oil industry magnate Harold Hamm’s separation from Sue Ann Arnall was far messier. The couple filed for divorce in 2012 after 26 years of marriage, and their trial two years later ended with Hamm, the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources Inc., being ordered to pay her $972 million of his then-estimated $16.1 billion fortune. Arnall later sought to reopen the case but the Oklahoma Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in 2015.

— MacKenzie Bezos (@mackenziebezos) April 4, 2019
MacKenzie Bezos has said she intends to give away much of her wealth. She signed the Giving Pledge in May, promising to donate more than half of her fortune to philanthropy.

“I won’t wait,” she wrote in her pledge. “And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”

The divorce petition identifies Bellevue, Washington-based Ted Billbe as her lawyer. Seattle’s Sherri Anderson is the attorney for Jeff Bezos. Neither responded to requests for comment. Even if other details stay under wraps, the case is set to remain a cornerstone of conversation among divorce lawyers.

“Everybody in my business is asking about it,” Walzer said.

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