Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, will divorce after 25 years of marriage, the couple announced on Wednesday morning. They did not provide a reason for their separation.
“We have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” they said in the statement, which was posted to Jeff Bezos’ Twitter page. “If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again.”
Bezos, worth an estimated $136.2 billion, is the richest person in the world. It is not yet clear how the divorce will impact his net worth, or whether it will affect his stake in Amazon, the e-commerce giant he founded in 1994. Bezos, 54, owns roughly 16% of the business, which comprises more than 95% of his fortune. He also owns the Washington Post and rocket company Blue Origin.
The couple lives primarily in Washington State, which requires divorcing spouses to equitably divide “community property,” including all income generated during a marriage. “It seems very likely, if not 100% a certainty, that whatever Jeff Bezos has earned at Amazon has been community income,” says David Starks, a partner at the Seattle-based law firm McKinley Irvin. He added, however, that through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, “You can elect to have your assets treated differently, and that’s not uncommon.”
Moreover, “Awarding a spouse their share of a community asset doesn’t necessarily mean actually transferring the asset to them,” notes Virginia Onu, an attorney based in Washington. In other words, instead of selling or transferring Amazon shares, Jeff Bezos could offer monetary compensation equivalent to the shares’ fair market value.
If MacKenzie Bezos, 48, does indeed receive half of her husband’s assets, she would be worth more than $68 billion, making her the fifth-richest person in the world. Even a 1% payout would constitute one of the largest divorce settlements in history.
The Bezoses, who have four children, both attended Princeton but met after graduation while working at investment firm D.E. Shaw; she was an associate on his team. They married in 1993 and moved to Seattle in 1994, the same year Amazon was founded.
MacKenzie Bezos boasts a successful career in her own right. A creative writing major at Princeton (she served as a research assistant to Toni Morrison), she won the American Book Award for her first novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, published in 2005. She also founded the anti-bullying organization Bystander Revolution.
A representative for Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
By Noah Kirsch for Forbes
Angel Au-Yeung contributed reporting.