Power Players

MacKenzie Bezos is about to be one of the richest women in the world

CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and writer MacKenzie Bezos attend the Amazon Studios Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, California.
Getty Images | Jerod Harris | Stringer

MacKenzie Bezos announced the news of her own divorce settlement with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a Twitter post in April, and the transfer of Amazon stock to her is expected to happen this week, according to Bloomberg.  

Bezos will receive about a 4% stake in Amazon, currently worth nearly $38 billion.

The settlement will make Bezos the fourth-richest woman in the world, based on Bloomberg's rankings of the world's richest people, behind L'Oreal heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, Alice Walton (the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton) and Mars Inc. co-owner Jacqueline Mars.

Jeff Bezos, meanwhile, will remain the world's richest person, even after losing more than $38 billion from his net worth, which is nearly $158 billion as of Monday, according to Forbes. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates ranks second with $103 billion.

The couple announced the decision to divorce after 25 years of marriage in a joint statement that Jeff Bezos posted on Twitter in January. The decision to divorce comes after "a long period of loving exploration and trial separation," the couple says in the statement.

Considering their massive wealth, it had been speculated that the Bezos' divorce would yield a huge settlement. CNBC Make It's most recent look at Bezos' assets reveals multimillion-dollar homes across the U.S. (including in Medina, Washington and Beverly Hills, California, each worth $25 million, according to WealthX). But, as of October, more than 90 percent of the Bezos couple's wealth was tied up in Amazon stock, of which they owned about 80 million shares.

In his own Twitter post in April, Jeff Bezos wrote that he was "grateful" for the support he's received from friends, family and from MacKenzie Bezos, who he described as "an extraordinary partner, ally and mother."

So who is MacKenzie Bezos?

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MacKenzie grew up in San Francisco, where her father worked as a financial planner. She earned an English degree at Princeton University in 1992 (roughly six years after Jeff graduated from the same school), and she first met her future husband later that same year. She'd moved to New York City in search of a job and she met Jeff when he interviewed her for a job at the hedge fund where he was working, D.E. Shaw.

The two ended up with offices next to one another and MacKenzie soon became enamored with Bezos and his loud, distinctive laugh. "My office was next door to his, and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh," she told Vogue in a 2013 interview. "How could you not fall in love with that laugh?"

MacKenzie kicked things off with Bezos by asking him out to lunch and, after dating for only three months, they were engaged. Another three months later, they got married. That was 1993 and MacKenzie was only 23, while Jeff was 29.

Not long after, Jeff had the idea that would become Amazon.com. "I told my wife MacKenzie that I wanted to quit my job and go do this crazy thing that probably wouldn't work since most startups don't, and I wasn't sure what would happen after that," Jeff said in a 2010 address at his alma mater, Princeton.

MacKenzie told him to go for it and in 1994 the couple moved from New York to Seattle, with Jeff writing a business plan for his online bookstore on the cross-country drive. He launched the company out of their garage that summer.

When Vogue asked Jeff in 2013 about what drew him to MacKenzie, the billionaire listed a few of her attributes while also joking about the added insight he gained from interviewing her for a job. "I think my wife is resourceful, smart, brainy, and hot, but I had the good fortune of having seen her résumé before I met her, so I knew exactly what her SATs were," he said.

While Jeff built Amazon into an e-commerce behemoth that briefly reached a $1 trillion valuation in 2018, MacKenzie rediscovered a passion for writing that she had developed in college, where she studied fiction under Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. (Morrison told Vogue that MacKenzie was "one of the best students I've ever had in my creative-writing classes.")

MacKenzie is the author of two novels: "The Testing of Luther Albright," published in 2005, and 2013's "Traps." The New York Times called the first of those two novels, which won an American Book Award in 2006, a "quietly absorbing first novel" about "an emotionally repressed husband and father." (Though Amazon has its own book publishing imprint, MacKenzie's novels were published by Fourth Estate and Knopf, respectively. They are among the titles sold on Amazon.)

MacKenzie took roughly a decade to write her first book, she told Vogue in 2013, partially because she wanted to spend more time with her children (she gave birth to the first of the couple's four children in 2000), which took time out of her writing schedule. In 2013, she said she had gone as far as renting a one-bedroom apartment near the Bezos' Washington home where she could spend time writing uninterrupted.

In addition to her writing career, MacKenzie also founded the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution in 2014. She serves as executive director of the organization, which says its "ultimate goal is the discussion and spread of simple habits of kindness, courage and inclusion." The organization's website aims to offer solutions to bullying along with suggestions for how the average person can defuse situations involving bullying.

The organization has worked with celebrities like Monica Lewinsky, actress Lily Collins, and NFL star Tom Brady to produce anti-bullying videos.

"A lot of the conventional wisdom about bullying is that it is a cultural norm that can't be overcome," MacKenzie said in 2015. "But there are so many small things an individual can do to help that have a huge impact."

Meanwhile, in 2018, Jeff and MacKenzie announced their pledge to donate $2 billion to a new philanthropic fund that will go toward helping homeless families and funding preschools in underserved communities. The move followed criticism of Jeff Bezos for what had been a lack of philanthropic activities. And, while Jeff and MacKenzie are splitting up, their announcement still left room for them to work together in the future on projects like the philanthropic fund.

The couple described their relationship going forward this way: "We also see wonderful futures ahead as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures."

This story has been updated.

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Valedictorian Jeff Bezos said he wanted to build 'space hotels and colonies' in his 1982 high school graduation speech

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CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and writer MacKenzie Bezos attend the Amazon Studios Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, California.
Getty Images | Jerod Harris | Stringer
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