Jeff Bezos just lost $38 billion. He’s still the richest person in the world

Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos: uncoupling without drama.
Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos: uncoupling without drama.
Image: Reuters/Danny Moloshok
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The ink is barely dry on Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos’ divorce papers, filed Friday in King County, Washington. After more than 25 years of marriage, and around six months of separation, the two are legally split.

Now, as Bloomberg reports, Mackenzie is due to start receiving the nearly 20 million Amazon shares that formed part of the divorce settlement. Worth nearly $38 billion, they make up 4% of the total shares of the company—enough to catapult her to 22nd place on the list of the world’s richest people. (Jeff Bezos’ top spot remains unchanged.)

Mackenzie Bezos opted to give her ex-husband 75% of her Amazon stock and voting control over what she retains, despite having a likely legal right to much more of his empire, as Ephrat Livni reports in a Quartz membership profile. He maintains his complete ownership of the Washington Post and the space exploration startup Blue Origin.

She will have to work hard if she is to meet the goals she laid out when she signed the Giving Pledge in May, where she promised to donate her wealth to good causes “until the safe is empty.” Mackenzie Bezos is nearly 50 years old: Even if she lives to 100, she may find it difficult to land upon enough avenues to direct her wealth. The best-intentioned billionaire philanthropists struggle to give away their vast wealth faster than they accrue more. Bill and Melinda Gates, for instance, have given away more than $45 billion through their Gates Foundation, but accrued almost as much themselves over the same period.

One solution might involve following in the footsteps of Warren Buffett. Rather than setting up his own foundation, a costly and time-consuming enterprise, he has instead chosen to divert huge sums of money to the Gates Foundation. But Mackenzie Bezos’ comments in her letter announcing her intention to give, where she promised to be “thoughtful” and to take “time and effort and care,” suggests a desire to no longer remain on the sidelines.

Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is approximately three times his ex-wife’s, has not signed the Giving Pledge.