Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, are getting a divorce.
Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, has an estimated net worth of $137 billion and topped Forbes’s list last year of the richest Americans (beating out Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mark Zuckerberg), as well as the list of billionaires worldwide.
D.C. divorce lawyer Sandy Ain, who has handled his share of splits among the uber-wealthy (although he doesn’t rep either Bezos), notes that Washington state, where the Bezoses reside, is a “community property” state, meaning that all assets and debts accumulated during a marriage are divided equally. Because Bezos is the richest person in the world, a 50/50 agreement would result in the biggest recorded divorce settlement.
But, Ain says, the couple could have a prenuptial agreement — or even a postnuptial agreement (meaning it was negotiated after the “I do’s”) — that would trump the law declaring a couple halve everything. And what could be in such an arrangement? “Literally anything they wanted,” Ain said, including a potential provision that property acquired under one party’s name remain theirs.
Ain notes that the couple’s amicable joint statement indicates that the split probably won’t be messy or protracted. “Sounds like they are making an effort to do this the right way and not make it into a public spectacle,” he said.
And even if the couple winds up splitting the fortune — a move that could knock Bezos off the top of the richest list — Ain notes that merely means the couple will each occupy one slot, just further down the ranking.
“They will still be one-percenters,” he said.
The couple wed in 1993, a year after meeting at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co., where MacKenzie (nee Tuttle) was a research associate. In a 2013 interview with Vogue, MacKenzie — who, like Bezos, graduated from Princeton University — said her first interview at the firm was with her future husband, a senior vice president.
“My office was next door to his, and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh,” she told the magazine. “How could you not fall in love with that laugh?”
At the time, MacKenzie, who counted Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison as one of her mentors at Princeton, was an aspiring novelist. Her debut novel, “The Testing of Luther Albright,” was published in 2005.
Attempts to reach MacKenzie, 48, through her publisher were not immediately returned.
The couple have lived in Seattle since 1994. They have four children.
This post has been updated.