The world's richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his wife MacKenzie have agreed a record-breaking divorce settlement of at least $35bn (£27bn).
The terms of the divorce were released by the couple yesterday, following the end of their 25-year marriage.
It was decided that MacKenzie will keep a 4% stake in Amazon, worth $35.6bn on its own. This leaves Jeff with 75% of the couple’s total Amazon shares plus all the voting rights (meaning he will retain company control). MacKenzie has also relinquished all her interests in the Washington Post newspaper and Blue Origin, a private space company.
According to Forbes, the Amazon shares alone will make Ms Bezos the world's third-richest woman in the world. Jeff will remain the world's richest person.
Jeff Bezos, 55, and MacKenzie, 48, a novelist, married in 1993 and have four children. Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in Seattle in 1994, a year after the couple married, and Ms Bezos was one of its first employees. Before the divorce Jeff had a reported net worth of $137 billion.
In the state of Washington they use the concept of “community property”, whereby assets accumulated during the marriage are communal and divided 50/50 if the marriage ends. A lot of people expected that this is how the couple’s assets would be divided.
High net worth divorces can be tricky, as some of the assets may be illiquid. There is a possibility that the parties may have to transfer or sell a stock to fund a settlement and possibly lose company control. In the long run, both parties will want the family fortune to grow – and that can be tied in large part to control of the company. By allowing Jeff to retain a larger share of Amazon and control of the company, MacKenzie has given him the opportunity to grow the company and therefore the value of her 4% share even further.
At Myerson, we work extensively for business owners or their spouses in arranging the valuation of business assets to determine liquidity or to determine the extent to which a party can provide income to meet future maintenance payments.