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June 25, 2022

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Jeff Bezos and wife divorcing

Division of assets prime topic for speculation

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SEATTLE — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, are divorcing, ending a 25-year marriage that played a role in the creation of an e-commerce company that made Bezos one of the world’s wealthiest people.

The decision to divorce comes after a trial separation, according to a statement posted Wednesday on Jeff Bezos’ Twitter account. He and his wife both signed the announcement, which ended with a vow to remain “cherished friends.”

“If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again,” the couple said.

Left unanswered was one of the biggest sticking points in any divorce: How the assets amassed during the marriage will be divided.

And there may never have been more money than in this case.

Jeff Bezos is ranked at the top of most lists of the world’s wealthiest people, and his fortune currently hovers around $137 billion, according to estimates by both Forbes and Bloomberg. Virtually all of that is tied up in the nearly 79 million shares of Amazon stock (currently worth about $130 billion) that Bezos owns, translating into a 16 percent stake in the Seattle company. Bezos, 54, also owns rocket ship maker Blue Origin and The Washington Post, which he bought for $250 million in 2013.

Because the pair were married before Amazon was founded, it’s likely that MacKenzie Bezos, a 48-year-old novelist, holds a large claim to that fortune, though details hinge on where the couple files for divorce and if they had a prenuptial agreement.

No filing yet

King County, where their home is located, confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that the Bezoses had not filed for divorce in court. The couple own a home in a wealthy Seattle suburb within the county. Jeff Bezos also bought a mansion in a swanky Washington, D.C., neighborhood last year for $23 million. The Bezoses have four children.

“The property acquired during the marriage is common property,” said Jennifer Payseno, a family lawyer at the firm McKinley Irvin in Seattle. That includes stock ownership, although Amazon has not filed any regulatory documents to suggest Bezos’ stake in the company has changed. Amazon didn’t respond to inquiries about how the divorce may affect that stake.

The Bezoses will almost certainly settle the divorce outside of court, if they haven’t already, said Jacqueline Newman, a Manhattan divorce lawyer and managing partner at Berkman Bottger Newman & Rodd.

“For the most part, they’re going to want to keep things private and quiet,” she said. “Especially in the case of a public company, they’re not going to want information to leak because it could ultimately affect stock prices.”

Amazon’s stock edged up $2.84 Wednesday to close at $1,659.42. That left Amazon with a market value of $811 billion, more than any other publicly traded company in the U.S.

The amicable tenor of the Bezoses’ divorce announcement makes it highly likely that the couple already has reached an agreement on how to divide their assets, Payseno said.

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