How much do you think Jeff Bezos will get in the divorce?

I haven’t heard anyone ask that. I’ve only read headlines like How Much Could MacKenzie Bezos Get? and How Much Will Jeff Bezos Lose?

In the Bezos marriage, the partners are equals. Jeff and MacKenzie started the company together. And they worked side by side. When the company was big and they had four kids, MacKenzie took half the load (kids) and Jeff took half the load (work).

Why do people assume Jeff will be doling out money to MacKenzie? The money is as much hers as it is his. Some headlines are simply despicable. NBC ran the headline The settlement between the world’s richest man and his wife. But if he is the world’s richest man, then she is the world’s richest woman. Already. Before the settlement. Because all his money is her money.

Consider what it would be like if NBC ran this headline: The settlement between the world’s richest woman and her husband. It sounds odd, right? Because the power in the sentence is so firmly on MacKenzie’s side. But then we should recognize the first headline as odd, too. The headline NBC ran is bad journalism because it distorts reality.

The language of divorce is about power, and we take power away from all stay-at-home spouses when we talk about MacKenzie like she has no money of her own.

Wired magazine published a great piece about how the famed companies of Silicon Valley are never founded by one, single person. It takes a team of people to do something so grand as Amazon, and MacKenzie was a key part of that team. Years ago, MacKenzie put any doubts about her contribution to rest in a long, meticulous review of a biography of Jeff. She gave the book one star.

MacKenzie has always stood up for her contribution in the marriage. But it’s not so easy for most women. Most women did not work side by side with their spouse to start the most disruptive company in the world.

Most women do their half of the team’s work and get very little credit for it. Because when it comes to spousal partnerships, society talks about the stay-at-home spouse like they are a freeloader, waiting to pick up their check in the divorce.

USA Today describes MacKenzie and Jeff starting Amazon together. But then USA Today frames the marriage this way:

Since then, Bezos became the world’s richest man, supplanting Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Forbes’ annual list of the 400 richest Americans three months ago, with his net worth rising to $160 billion, up from $81.5 billion a year ago.

MacKenzie Bezos became a novelist, winning an American Book Award for her 2005 debut novel “The Testing of Luther Albright.” Subsequently, she released the book “Traps” in 2013.

This is not an accurate representation of either Jeff or MacKenzie. One of the most dangerous parts of the USA Today summary is they left out that “since then” Jeff and MacKenzie also became parents. This is very important because it’s the work that MacKenzie did that makes her an equal partner in the marriage and equally as wealthy as Jeff.

So, USA Today should make a correction to give a more accurate description:

Since then, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos became parents. At the same time, Jeff was the CEO of Amazon, and MacKenzie became a novelist. They also became the richest couple, supplanting Bill and Melinda Gates. 

It’s unusual for such a high-profile CEO to be married to someone who is their equal. Which is why the language we use to talk about this divorce is so important. Society does not celebrate the contribution stay-at-home partners make to corporate jobs. But huge jobs like CEO of Amazon are actually two-person jobs.

When we automatically assume the stay-at-home spouse is the one with less money, we disparage the contribution of the stay-at-home spouse. Today more and more women choose to stay at home with kids, but only after they spend time in the corporate world, where people get money and accolades and promotions. The transition to parenting is difficult, because there are no awards or promotions. The transition is even more difficult when journalists don’t give women credit for their contributions.

How you talk about the Bezos divorce says a lot about you. We don’t come across divorces like this very often; MacKenzie is a powerhouse. Let’s talk about her that way, because talking about women with power while being respectful of that power teaches us to respect the power inside ourselves.

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  1. Reichart
    Reichart says:

    Agreed.

    Also, and unrelated to marriage … most of the earth still conflates the quantity of money with magical attributes on people they don’t in fact have.

    Reply
    • wolf
      wolf says:

      These divorces are completley unfair. Laws were put in place to protect from poverty, not create super rich spouses that had nothing to do with welth but “giving support etc.”. If I was him, I’d use the opportunity to take this all the way to Suppreme court and change this insane rules… He won’t do it though, becsuse of consumer back-lash…

      Reply
      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        People have different views of what marriage means, wolf. It’s clear that your belief about marriage differs greatly from the most common traditional view in our society – that marriage, as Mark 10:8 says, makes of the two one flesh. Laws in our country frequently reflect this view – for example, a spouse cannot be compelled to testify against the other spouse.

        If you believe, as many here state and you imply, that the money a husband in a marriage was paid or accrued in work is only his money, and not the common money of the couple, then you don’t believe in this traditional view of marriage. It seems that you believe something very different – that wives are employees of their husbands, perhaps – but certainly not that they are become one person.

        Washington State has laws that comport with the traditional view. The consequence of this traditional treatment of man and wife as one person is that, upon divorce, each person takes away half of that joint personhood, with half of all debts and assets.

        Does it seem too old-fashioned to you, wolf? Have you ever considered getting married?

        Reply
          • Bostonian
            Bostonian says:

            I’m guessing you didn’t get married in a church then, Maury.

            I know it’s becoming less common.

            Do you have a different view of marriage than the traditional “one person” idea? Would you like to explain it?

        • Laura Brennan
          Laura Brennan says:

          You’re a little off base when you state that the laws comport with the “traditional view” of marriage. The Bible talking about “one flesh” has absolutely nothing to do with economic fairness. Further, the idea of community property is fairly new. When I was in law school in the 1980’s, there were only eight (8) states that had community property laws. Most of them were in the western part of the country, including Washington State.

          With that said, your heart seems to be in the right place.

          Reply
      • Laura Brennan
        Laura Brennan says:

        Well, guess what, Wolfie? Divorce cases rarely, if ever make it to the Supreme Court. First, there will most likely be a settlement. If they settle, that’s it. It’s a contract and there are no appeals. If they don’t settle, the case will go to trial. Washington State is a community property state, which means it’s pretty much going to go half & half. There are exceptions to that rule. Anything earned, or owned by either party prior to the marriage is not community property. The person claiming separate property has to prove that during the trial.

        ANY ASSETS or income acquired DURING the marriage is community property. Even if there no kids, and the wife sat home watching soap operas and trimming her toenails all day, she gets half. That’s the law, so suck it up.

        Incidentally, before the laws started to change, most women and children did live in poverty after a divorce. Your comment reminds me of white men who yell about reverse racism. What you perceive as reverse racism is actually a level playing field. Same logic applies here.

        Reply
      • Nina
        Nina says:

        Non-working spouses are not protected from financial ruin and bankruptcy which are not an uncommon outcome when a working spouse decides to start a small business. Bankruptcy stays on the non-working spouse’s credit report for years, perhaps longer than the marriage lasts.

        In addition, spouses who quit work in order to care of their children often become ineligible for disability should they need it.

        They take those risks because they’ve entered into a partnership where both parties share the load, the losses, and the gains.

        Reply
      • Jane
        Jane says:

        Wow.You have clearly never been married or had children, or know what it takes to get a company off the ground.
        The company, THEY started TOGETHER.

        If you were him, . . . your spirit will prevent you from being even 1/100 of Bezos.

        Reply
    • Ian Blackman
      Ian Blackman says:

      Good point. And especially in the States (with respect) although Buffett is probably a good person and clearly talented if money is any measure!

      Reply
  2. Jako
    Jako says:

    Glad you thoughtfully laid this out. I figured when I was thinking about the equal partnership between them, before I read this post, that I was just letting my antiquated view of marriage opine for me…

    Reply
  3. Anne
    Anne says:

    Yes!yes!yes!! Penelope, thank you for your insight into this-a point not normally articulated -ever!!

    That the success of the “out in front”spouse is possible because someone in the background was doing the day to day drudgery that is required to run the “back of the house” and take care of the children, if any!! That is why we are seeing a falling of birth-rates for educated women-they see the sacrifices to their careers and don’t see how to make it work for them!

    Reply
          • Mrs.R
            Mrs.R says:

            I was a female CEO (for reference: from start-up to multi-million in revenue and almost 200 employees). I also am a mom. If someone had the balls (or ovaries) to tell me the success of my company was because I had the “emotional” support of my husband or because he was in charge of hiring the nannies or helped take care of the kids or had chats with me about “ideas,” I would tell them they were nuts. I don’t know where you get that 50/50 is a good starting point because we “can’t know” blah blah blah.

            We can know. I started and ran a company. It’s about execution, not “ideas.”

        • Peter James
          Peter James says:

          It is.

          It is orders of magnitude harder than managing a wealthy home as a privileged wife surrounded by household staff.

          Reply
          • Sara
            Sara says:

            Spoken like a true man who hasn’t walked in her shoes. Women are more powerful than you think. You should think twice before you put down your wife, but for some reason I highly doubt you are even married.

          • Me
            Me says:

            That’s not the point. Sure it’s more difficult managing a billion dollar company than managing a household with servants. That’s not all that a marriage entails though. If you were married for a long time, you would know about the many private discussions between spouses that dictate what decisions each would make in life – only God knows how many of these discussions were responsible for placing Amazon where it is now. Perhaps Jeff Bezos even started Amazon because of such a discussion. Also, you think managing a billion dollar company is hard? Think about doing so while managing four kids – that’s an impossible task if you want the kids to grow into physically and mentally healthy people. Who knows how successful Mackenzie Bezos would have been in life if she hadn’t sacrificed her career to raise their (not just her) family? And you think it’s easy just hiring a nanny for your kids? Well aren’t you in for a nasty surprise (unless you happen to be one of the luckiest people in the world and end up getting decent nannies or you are one of those people who believe all kids can somehow just toughen it out). The best nanny I came across (I’ve seen about 20) lost her job when she threw a fire hydrant at one of the two kids she was supposed to be watching because she grew so frustrated with him! Nannies might be good at watching kids but they can never love them like their parents do (the healthy, decent ones – unfortunately not all parents are so decent) and kids thrive on that love. And not every stay-at-home-mom enjoys being a stay-at-home-mom – not even those who dreamed of being one their entire life. It can be a pretty thankless, tedious and depressing task. Often one of the parents might still do so because both of them agree that they don’t want strangers managing their most precious possessions on earth. Both parents might have successful careers and one might sacrifice their career and stay home with the kids for the sake of the family. That might be what Mackenzie Bezos did. Otherwise, perhaps Jeff Bezos would have been a stay-at-home-dad instead of building Amazon. Plus there is no price tag on the emotional support you can get from a spouse. Who knows how much this emotional support was responsible for Amazon’s success? Human beings aren’t robots you know – a lot of factors determine their success. Sure we don’t know exactly how much Mackenzie Bezos contributed towards Amazon’s success and there really is no universally “fair” means of measuring how much her contribution is worth. And that is why, by the law, a marriage is simply treated as a 50/50 partnership. Any wealth you accrue while being married is divided equally between the two of you, regardless of who the breadwinner is. This might not always be fair if one of the partners is really horrible at doing their share of work in the partnership – but that’s how partnerships works. You can look at any business venture where partnerships are involved – I highly doubt the percentage of work each partner puts into the venture is precisely equal to the percentage of revenue he/she is earning from it. If you find a partnership to be too unfair you break it up and you each go in your own way – the wealth accrued prior to breaking the partnership is still divided based on the terms of the partnership. Somehow we don’t have a difficult time understanding this with business ventures but when it comes to marriages it is extremely difficult for the public to digest the fact that the stay-at-home mom has as much right to any money earned by the working dad as he does because that’s the partnership terms they, as consenting adults, agreed to enter. If you have a problem with those terms, just don’t get married or draw up a prenup when you do. Stop judging other marriages you know nothing about and making insulting, sexist remarks about how a stay-at-home-mom does not deserve 50% of the wealth accrued by her husband while being married to her when, for all you know, she might actually deserve even more. In fact, given that the terms of the partnership was allegedly violated by Jeff Bezos when he cheated on her, and once again there is no price tag to how much turmoil the publicity of this affair might have caused in her personal life, she might deserve more. In fact, judges might say she deserves more if it is shown that he used a significant amount of their legally shared wealth on the affair. Also, consider this situation – suppose you have a successful career and then you fall in love, get married and have kids. Both you and your partner love your kids more than anything else in the world and are hesitant to trust their well-being to strangers. Let’s say you do a coin toss to decide who will stay at home and you end up being the person chosen. Would you ever agree to stay at home and give up your career without a significant level of financial protection? At that point, neither of you know where each of your career would take you in the future. Isn’t splitting everything in half the simplest and most reasonable solution to this problem? Sure, it’s a gamble but why would you give up your freedom for anything less?

      • Laura Brennan
        Laura Brennan says:

        Peter, it doesn’t matter if a spouse (male or female) sat at home all day watching true crime shows and trimming one’s toenails. The laws have progressed toward community property or at least equitable distribution because, in the past, women and children were poverty stricken following a divorce. They would end up on the dole, standing in soup lines and waiting for welfare checks. I’m guessing you’re a conservative, and you would hate that, wouldn’t you? Imagine your tax dollars helping to support an impoverished family because a spouse didn’t “deserve” his or her share of the marital assets.

        That’s the law, big boy; so sush it up.

        Reply
  4. Alexia
    Alexia says:

    Thank you Penelope for articulating the very same frustration I have been feeling as I have been reading about the Bezos divorce. This is often the narrative of every high profile divorce. How much HE will lose. How much she will GET. As though throughout their marriage Mackenzie was an invisible and voiceless accessory who only existed at the financial mercy of her husband. It is an insult to all women and their worth in a marriage. This divorce is going to be tabloid fodder for months. And once it is finalized we all know the media will be clamoring to report on how much “he had to give up.” Your argument needs to be part of the conversation.

    Reply
  5. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    Wow!! It’s true that everyone is talking about MacKenzie Bezos like she’s a feeeloader about to get a huge payout. It’s so odd… and even odder that you’re the only one to point it out!

    Penelope > Media

    Reply
    • Chloe
      Chloe says:

      It’s because most people can see Jeff is the one who has put in most of the work. He has made thousands of high-level strategic decisions over the past 25 years and taken Amazon to where it is today. He has generated a huge amount of wealth for himself, his family and millions of shareholders.

      Reply
      • HarriedandHopeless
        HarriedandHopeless says:

        Do you think for one second Mr Bezos would have been able to make “strategic decisions” if he needed to leave his job at 5pm in order to pick up his children at daycare every day, if he was unable to stay late at work in order to care for his children, if he was unable to travel in order to care for his children, if he was unable to work weekends in order to take of the children? Of course not. His partner, his wife, made that sacrifice to take care of the children THEY created and therefore as his partner, she deserves half of what THEY earned together. Period. Why would any women agree to marry and have children if she would not be guaranteed half if he decides the marriage is over?

        Reply
        • sense and sensibility
          sense and sensibility says:

          “Do you think for one second Mr Bezos would have been able to make “strategic decisions” if he needed to leave his job at 5pm in order to pick up his children at daycare every day… ”

          This is pretty twisted thinking. Should he pay much money to his local restaurant too? After all, he can’t make decisions without food. Pick any aspect of his life, and it’s all put him where he is.

          The question is, why aren’t you doing his job if all it takes is support of people around you ? It’s because it’s not that easy to fill his role. To have his motivation, innovation and skills.

          Another question I have is, if we think she is worth so much just because he married her, doesn’t it devalue other women who perform exactly the same function as her? Why aren’t they entitled to the same money as she will get from it ? Consider that there are millions of women out there like MK but aren’t getting her settlement. What makes her case special? Jeff does. Because HE is successful.

          Reply
          • Harried and Hopeless
            Harried and Hopeless says:

            This is such a great conversation…

            You say, “should Bezos then have to pay everyone around him for his success?”

            The words you pick belie your bias. Bezos is not having to PAY his own wife, It is THEIR money. Let that sink in for a minute. It is THEIR money. Commenters seem to want to know WHY “she should get” half. Play along ..of THEIR money. How silly. If you want a reason why she gets half it is because 1) it is THEIR money and 2) THEY both had kids that they have to take care of and THEY decided that she would SACRIFICE her career in order to take care of their kids. If Bezos stayed home with the the kids and Makenzie made the millions, Bezos would get half too. Is this starting to make sense? Penelope titles her blog the way she does because it turns the normal argument…it’s his money and she gets what he decides to give her…on its head.
            You want to believe that because he ended up being at Amazon everyday and had the freedom, from the caregiving, household responsibilities that would have curtailed his ability to do that job, that somehow he is entitled to give her less than half. He is not. They are married, they each get half.
            Again I say what woman in her right mind would decide to raise kids and sacrifice her career, her potential in the business world if she does not get half? It would be stupid. Btw, gals, if you are interested read about Lorna Wendt, one of the first wives in the US to go to court for half. We have her to thank that at least things are “equitable” which by the way is NOT half.

          • Enough already
            Enough already says:

            You all seem to be forgetting that Mackenzie had a direct instrumental role in Amazon for years. She was not just some supportive spouse, she was one of the first two employees.

        • Daniel Smith
          Daniel Smith says:

          Hahahaha he could have just hired a sitter or someone to pick up his kids, HE made the money! Anyone can have kids but literally only 1 man in the world could make that much money!

          Reply
        • sense and sensibility
          sense and sensibility says:

          “Bezos is not having to PAY his own wife, It is THEIR money”

          That’s what’s being discussed, both by us and in the article.

          My contention is that his skills, and his skills alone determined their wealth. If he was not married, and had no children, he would still be a billionaire, and he would have started Amazon. It was his hard labour, his unique drive, his skillset, talents and ingenuity, that qualifies him to be in the position he is in.

          It’s pointed out that her career was somehow sacrificed. This was a CHOICE made by them (or just her). They had enough money to pay anyone to take care of their children. She could have chosen to pursue a career.

          How it can be considered she would have amassed this wealth of her own, is indeed curious. It’s as if making billions is easy, and normal, and he didn’t have anything to do with it and if she only had gone to work by herself, she too would have made billions. Probability will tell us this is extremely unlikely.

          The description of her job still entails something billions of women around the world accomplish while his job is something very very few could manage.

          Reply
          • HarriedandHopeless
            HarriedandHopeless says:

            Whoa…how do you know he could have been as successful if he was not married? Success is related to many factors. As well, how can you assume Mackenzie could have not have built a billion dollar company on her own? Mackenzie gave up that opportunity to the raise the kids and decided to work part-time.

          • Jane
            Jane says:

            THEY. STARTED. THE. COMPANY. TOGETHER.

            Bezos has attributed the early success of the company to her, many, many, many, times.

            They became billionaires when the company went public in 1997.

            So YES, she was instrumental in Amazon existing, and NO, his ‘incredible mind’ or whatever had nothing to do with them becoming billionaires.

            Glad I could clear that up for you

        • Pat
          Pat says:

          Bozos would have made his money without her. She would not have made her money without him. That is the difference. No one is disputing the important role mothers play, but it could have been anyone raising the kids and only a special person like Bezos could do what he did.

          Reply
          • Not That Melissa
            Not That Melissa says:

            While it’s probably true that a CEO is going to CEO no matter who they are married too, any boss worth their salt will tell you that they can’t accomplish anything alone. They need great people around them. They need a great team that they can trust to keep them informed about what’s coming ahead.

            Mackenzie Bezos was the most trusted member of that team. Why? Because she could do something that no one else could do. And it’s unlikely Jeff would have reached the heights he did without her.

          • wolf
            wolf says:

            These divorces are completley unfair. Laws were put in place to protect from poverty (back in a day men used run off and leave children and wifes with no support. It was a massive problem), not create super rich spouses that had nothing to do with welth but “giving support etc.”. People succeed on their own, arguing that someone would not succed if they didn’t have a partner on their side is nonsense. If I was him, I’d use the opportunity to take this all the way to Suppreme court and change this insane laws

          • Harriedandhopeless
            Harriedandhopeless says:

            How do you know that she couldn’t have made that money without him? Horrible to curtail the potential of people you have never met. Is it because she is a women?

  6. Lindsey
    Lindsey says:

    THANK YOU Penelope. I thought the headlines were ridiculous, but until you read a well-written explanation, I even missed the extent of the misogyny which is the scariest part. That at our worst we’re just accepting these viewpoints, or at best we’re rolling our eyes and moving on…and so it continues. Thank you for reminding me. Also, don’t you think it’s interesting that no one is saying, “Will Jeff get to see his kids at all now? How will he handle that?”

    Like so many headlines, it seems like journalists continue to promote this fear that someone is always primed and ready to take everything away from you. Just antidotal of course, but in every conversation with older, fairly wealthy white men, they seem to be obsessed about how unfair the world is, and it is, but most of the time they’re blowing it all out of proportion. They are still the benefactors of our patriarchal system, but as it slowly becomes less messed up…they’re hyper aware of these small shifts and suddenly terrified and pissed. Do you see this? Is this what’s happening, or are older white guys just generally jaded and annoyed?
    Okay, I’m sorry to generalize and I’m sure I’m offending men in that group, but truly…they’re always pulling me aside telling me how some employee/partner/vendor is about to rip me off. I generally welcome business advice, but I found that 95% of the time, I find zero evidence that their warnings are true.

    Reply
  7. Lydisy
    Lydisy says:

    Washington in a community property state so they are equal owners if the assets earned during the marriage. ironically, I had recently read an article about how stable their relationship is, only one spouse etc. Wonder what happened?

    Reply
    • HarriedandHopeless
      HarriedandHopeless says:

      It is important to note that Washington State is Equitable not Equal. There is a difference. Btw, when Lorna Wendt sued her husband for half in 1996 she increased what he was willing to give her (I’m cringing) from 8 million to 20 million. The marital assets were worth 100 million. Of course he was able to take his 6 figure salary and continue to accumulate wealth. She had to start from scratch. Interestingly, the lawyers for her husband said the same exact thing that I have read in these comments…”she could not have made that much money on her own.” We have not come very far since 1996, have we? Ladies, sign a postnup after you decide to stay home with kids guaranteeing half if the marriage should fail. Otherwise, go make your own millions.

      Reply
  8. carol of kensington
    carol of kensington says:

    Click bait headlines misrepresent the facts a hundred times a day. I don’t believe they’re splitting up. This is a smokescreen for him to get $70 billion cashed out this year. But I like your spin on it.

    Reply
    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      I like your theory, carol. Could you flesh out how that would work? I’m imagining that you think they’re playing the divorce card to get around some SEC rules…

      Reply
      • jessica
        jessica says:

        A man did this at Enron prior to the fallout.

        This is off the top of my head, so it’s going to be roughly thought out, but I hope it helps:
        The gist of the idea is that we are currently at all-time-highs in the tech market, which is seeing a downturn. Cue risk protection.
        How can Bezos’ cash out and not affect his business? Through divorce.
        Bezos’ family wealth is illiquid. While he might be worth 140bb compared to last years 80bb (!!) they cannot access this cash.
        He cannot withdrawal large sums of equity without triggering a sell-off or concern considering his position at Amazon.
        If Bezos and his wife decide to divorce though, and as a part of the divorce are required to liquidate and split their assets, the market sentiment is not affected, it remains legal, and is a court ordered event.
        Now, they both have access to the 140bb cash (or any large sum below as part of the order).
        So, I do agree this is playing a factor in the decision to divorce. I’d probably do the same thing on paper.

        I’m not quite as sold on the idea that Mackenzie and he want to stay married or cohabit afterwards. For all I know they’ve been split for a long time anyway and decided to strike now while the iron is hot. That’s all speculation as no one can know 100% what goes on in someone else’s marriage.
        I just hope it is amicable, and they achieve whatever ends they are trying to, and the kids remain well supported.
        I do really like Penelope’s take on the family wealth and the narrative behind women and men in divorce.

        Reply
        • carol of kensington
          carol of kensington says:

          One of the give aways was the “passionate make out session at top Hollywood restaurant”. He wants everyone to see that his wife cannot possibly stay married to him after he pulls stunts like that. Your point that they may have been leading separate lives for a while is a good possibility.

          Reply
          • Not That Melissa
            Not That Melissa says:

            Jessica and Carol, this is fascinating. Thank you so much for this perspective.

            It also dovetails nicely with the newly found appreciation of gossip and the important role it plays in our culture. It’s never “just gossip” is it?

            So much of politics and power comes down to the gynecological. It’s exhausting.

  9. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Redistribute it to Amazon employees. They are both responsible for the mistreatment of employees and this is a disgusting, immoral amount of wealth for any two people.

    Reply
  10. Gina
    Gina says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here, you are making a lot of assumptions in your commentary. The Bezos’ “wealth” is nearly tied up in Amazon work. If Jeff Bezos is the only name on the ownership of those stock shares, then it is his, not theirs. It’s only theirs if they split. She was there but it is entirely dependent upon legalities, which only they and their lawyers know. And also, a marriage is only equal if both parties agree to to the equality. Just stating it’s equal when 2 parties are in it doesn’t make it so.

    Reply
    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      It does in Washington, Gina. It’s settled law. Washington is a community property state. Unless an agreement was made to the contrary, the two partners own 50% of all assets. It doesn’t matter how either spouse feels about that, or who in theory made the money. They both own it, all of it.

      Reply
  11. Bobbi
    Bobbi says:

    My opinion on this is it is a private matter and not any of my business. This is their personal life. I love your posts , and I usually find they help with my life, but is this just gossip?

    Reply
  12. Carol
    Carol says:

    Excellent point BUT Jeff Bezos’s name has been made synonymous with Amazon and its crazy, sad business model (it gouges suppliers, BTW). So it’s like hearing that Amazon will be split up.

    Reply
  13. Chloe
    Chloe says:

    Jeff has been the chairman, CEO, and president of Amazon since the company was founded. He has made/endorsed all the important decisions. He has built an enormously successful business from scratch. Amazon employs over 500 million people and is currently the most valuable public company in the world. All that in 25 years. Doing this is thousands of times harder than raising kids.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Anyone who has run a company and stayed home with kids will tell you that staying home with kids is harder. The stakes are higher with the kids – one might die if you don’t watch what they are putting in their mouth. And you are alone in your responsibility for the kids — no senior VP to take responsibility for morality, for example.

      More than all that, for a caretaker there is no gold medal or promotion or cover story in Fortune. No one acknowledges the work of a parent and no one ranks parents.

      This is what makes care taking so much more difficult than running a huge company: of us are taught in school to compete for accolades and rank our work against our peers. So we do that in school and then we do that in work. I’m not saying it’s great for us (it isn’t) but we can’t change that right now.

      The caretaker and the CEO are each doing what it takes to run a family, but the CEO becomes a role model, and a rock star and highly paid. The caregiver merely supports him. The reason caregiving is so much more difficult is because of the lack of respect, positive feedback and isolation from the world of achievement.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Chloe
        Chloe says:

        You cannot honestly claim that raising a few kids is the same difficulty or complexity as building an $800 billion company with 500 million employees.

        Most people are able to raise kids successfully (by which I mean their kids don’t choke to death or get seriously injured, and they grow up to be decent citizens – like most people are). Almost everyone manages to achieve this.

        Whereas building a company like Amazon is incredibly difficult and beyond the ability of most people. One a very small number of people are capable of this.

        Reply
        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          Jeff is great at what he’s doing. When you are great at what you’re doing it’s not hard. It’s hard for you to paint like Degas, but for Degas it was fun.

          This is what parenting is: sit around at soccer games, buy birthday presents for 10 year olds, and get yelled at by 8th grade teachers. There is a book by Jennifer Senior titled All Work and No Play. And it’s about how there is very little pleasure in the day to day work of parenting, but people do it because the joy of loving children is so strong.

          People who run companies love the day-to-day of running a company.

          The fact that lots of people raise kids and few people are CEOs of companies does not mean being a CEO is more difficult. It means that fewer people will give up all their time with their family so they can spend 100-hour weeks running a company.

          Penelope

          Reply
          • Chloe
            Chloe says:

            “This is what parenting is: sit around at soccer games, buy birthday presents for 10 year olds, and get yelled at by 8th grade teachers. ”

            These activites might be time-consuming and not much fun but they are extremely easy – everyone I know with kids manages to do this without any problems. They don’t need to study for 5 years. They don’t need any creativity or innovative thinking. This is why child-minders/nannies are paid a low wage and not billions of dollars – it is fairly easy work. Raising kids does not require any special talent or expert knowledge – the general population mostly manages just fine. Some are better than others, but the majority of people are able to attend soccer games, buy presents, change nappies, prepare meals, tidy the house, and keep kids entertained etc

          • me
            me says:

            You haven’t addressed Penelope’s argument at all, you’re talking past each other. You and her are using two different definitions of hard.

            Your definition is that X is hard if most people can’t do X.

            Her definition is that X is hard if doing X would be a serious burden and negative (a hardship, so to speak).

          • Chris
            Chris says:

            Penelope you say about Jeff and other gifted people….“When you are great at what you’re doing it’s not hard.” There are millions of stay at home moms out there that are great at what they are doing too. And in your comparison to Degas, you seem to compare Jeff’s job is easier than his wife’s because he’s good at it. You then go on to remark a mother’s job is harder using example of buying “birthday presents for 10 year olds, and getting yelled at by 8th grade teachers.” I just don’t follow your logic here. I know lots of moms who love doing all those things you said are “harder” and they are very good at it. Do you think most moms would prefer getting paid $150 billion doing the “harder” stay at home job or make $150 billion running a $800 billion dollar company? I’d bet 99.9% choose stay at home for $150 Billion.

          • Cari
            Cari says:

            Yes to the “it’s not hard to run a company for people who are built for it and love it.” Not to say there aren’t challenges, but this job is a fit for him.

      • jessica
        jessica says:

        In this outlier scenario of a family both jobs are hard in different ways. There are facts that support the way this family was able to achieve all they have: both parents are Ivy Educated, both parents worked at a hedge fund, where they met, for the first 5-10 years of Jeff’s career, both parents decided to start Amazon together and moved to do so, both parents decided to have three biological children and adopt one child (which can come with it’s own set of challenges).
        They both had high powered social networks and came from generational wealth.
        It is very simple to say these two are equals in their partnership and they both have challenges in their chosen daily activities. Jeff would not have stayed home with the kids because his intellectual and business ability was suited to running Amazon. Mackenzie’s abilities were best suited for their family to raising the children in their formative years, which with four kids is a challenging task no matter the resource level. As luck may have it, she was able to work part time as a novelist- which is also a hard job that requires a different set of intellectual ability.
        Neither of the roles they took were easy.
        They’ve produced a successful family and an incredibly successful business based on their personal choices and for that we can call their marriage a success.
        Not giving Mackenzie credit for anything is where the issue lies culturally.

        Reply
    • Judy
      Judy says:

      Chloe, I assume you have never had or raised any children? It’s certainly not as “easy” as it might look to raise the next generation. Sometimes it’s “harder” to do a monotonous task for the umpteenth time, day in and day out, than to make a high-level decision at a company.

      Sometimes it’s “harder” to tell a child the same thing for the 50th or 100th time, in a loving way, than to jet set off on a business trip and stay in a 5-star hotel with maid service and chef-created meals served on silver platters.

      If no one were willing to have a raise children, humanity and the entire planet would fall apart very quickly. The importance of the role of a parent caring for and raising a child cannot be overemphasized.

      Being a parent is a 24 x 7 x 365 responsibility, the monetary compensation is a whopping zero, and as Penelope said, the stakes are very high.

      There’s a well-known poem, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” Definitely something to ponder.

      Reply
      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        I really, really miss the business trips where I would jet off and stay in a 5 star hotel with maid service.

        I racked up more than a million frequent flier miles going to Brazil and back, always first class, and was always given the best room (#13, high floor) at the Meridien Copacabana.

        Caviar carts, special privileges, late nights at choro clubs in Lapa, I miss it so much.

        A few hours at home waiting for the new range to be delivered and worrying about jump-starting my minivan after one of the kids left the door open all night doesn’t really cut it for me today.

        Reply
  14. GetReal
    GetReal says:

    You can hire someone to watch the kids for $10-$50/hr. You can hire someone to manage Amazon into a $1T company for $10-$50/hr.

    Reply
    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Their kid just graduated from MIT. That doesn’t exactly scream uninvolved parent with kids left to the nannies.
      Their kid(S) or their grandkids will be more successful than Jeff and it’s because of the parents’ smart lifestyle decisions.
      Every parent can hire help, them more so. That doesn’t negate the high level decision making and supportive environment she had to make for the kids. Due to the extreme time-consuming nature of his role, Mackenzie was most likely 99% left to her own judgement and devices in regards to child rearing as with most stay at home parents I know.

      OR we are incredibly mistaken and Mackenzie prematurely rested on their laurels and lunched with other wealthy mothers day in and out during the families most important growth periods when the risk is high. Their sons’ recent results don’t attest to that, though.

      Reply
  15. Mike Martin
    Mike Martin says:

    I feel like there are a lot more important things to write about aside from the Bezoses divorce. This article wreaks of feminism. I agree with a lot of the points made, but headlines are made to catch attention. No one really cares about Mackenzie – this is the sad truth. Jeff is the staple of Amazon.

    Over a 25 year duration Mackenzie undoubtedly contributed to Amazon, but she will be receiving a portion of Jeff’s networth. Not the other way around.

    If I am crazy and wrong, so be it – I suppose I’m comparable to every other news platform mentioning this story other then yours.

    Penelope – if every other news platform mentioned Jeff Bezos getting a portion of Mackenzie’s networth, I’m positive there wouldn’t be such an in-depth post defending Jeff.

    Reply
    • me
      me says:

      “I suppose I’m comparable to every other news platform mentioning this story other then yours.”

      The argument that most other people say X, so it’s okay to believe X is logic that has been used to justify lots of horrible things throughout history. (Much much much more horrible than anything here.)

      “if every other news platform mentioned Jeff Bezos getting a portion of Mackenzie’s networth, I’m positive there wouldn’t be such an in-depth post defending Jeff.”

      Such a world would look so different from our current world that it seems like hubris to be so confident about what some blogger might post in that world.

      Reply
  16. AV Swatfigure
    AV Swatfigure says:

    The Bezos divorce, what if they run the empire together? They do it now. We don’t know how it is structured, where the profits go some maybe it is a change in name only for a couple. I’m sure that personal space, homes, etc will be divided or sold but overall who’s business is it who gets what? I’d like to see everyone leave them in peace with their children. We will know how things go eventually because it is a 24-7 new cycle.

    Reply
  17. Blandy Fisher
    Blandy Fisher says:

    Penelope, thank you so much for this! My ex always said the money he earned was both of ours since I raised the kids, ran the household, and eventually worked (after I stayed at home and then went to grad school) but he could still do his high-powered job — until I left him. Then it was “his” and I was taking it away. So it was ours until it wasn’t. FUCK. THAT. My lawyer agreed.

    Reply
  18. James
    James says:

    What Jeff Bezos has done is 1 in 7 billion. That’s why he is the wealthiest man in the world. It doesn’t matter if he is a man or a woman, you have a 1 in 7 billion money making ability, you deserve more. Raising a kid is hard, but there are millions of women and men around the world who manage to do so. I can count with one finger how many people earned as much money as Jeff Bezos.

    That’s generally speaking, but cheating on your spouse makes me lose all sympathy so I do hope she gets a ton of money from him assuming it was without her approval.

    Reply
    • Mary Vasilakakos
      Mary Vasilakakos says:

      His billions are made off the back of slaves in his infamous fulfillment centres. And aided and abetted by “adults” who want their precious purchases NOW! There isn’t a single ethical aspect to Bezos I can think of. And I’m not including the “affair” in that assessment.

      Reply
  19. Jeri
    Jeri says:

    Bourgeois feminist garbage at it’s finest. The language of wealth is about power, and we take power away from all working class women, and men, breaking their backs to make these bozos rich when we talk about such obscene amounts of wealth being “hers” or “his.”

    Get your head out of your privileged bum.

    Reply
  20. Antonio Molina
    Antonio Molina says:

    I first heard of Mackenzie since the whole divorce thing and now she’s responsible for Amazon success??? I think she’s the most expensive uterus in the contemporary history. That’s it

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I would guess that she said something to that effect in the acknowledgements section. Most authors thank their spouse.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Bostonian
        Bostonian says:

        From the acknowledgements for Traps:

        “In a special category are Preston, George, Henry, and Emmy, who teach and rescue me daily with their love and ideas, and Jeff, who is ever my most devoted reader and friend.”

        Reply
    • Karen Lee
      Karen Lee says:

      Precisely. He gets half of her earnings as well. Because they live in a state with community property laws. That’s how it works.

      Reply
  21. Louis the Adult
    Louis the Adult says:

    Is marriage a business contract or a moral contract? It seems you’re arguing that it’s a business one. If so, brilliant people and entrepreneurs, in general, should at least consider outsourcing their child birthing and rearing as a fiscally prudent measure. Then, instead of marrying, you could simply hire someone to act as an ideal spouse would, with the understanding that employment is based on performance. But if you then want to appeal to the morality of marriage, you’re going to have to swallow some sensibilities which you seem to find so antiquated and unpalpable.

    Reply
    • Bostonian
      Bostonian says:

      Louis, I think you hit on a good way to understand this: if a marriage is no more than employing someone as your spouse, we need to talk about marriage differently, and probably need to update employment law while we’re at it.

      It’s kind of irrelevant what we feel about it, of course, unless we want to change the law, because it’s plain as day and settled what community property means.

      I guess folks like Antonio Molina are saying they want to work to change the law. So here are some good questions for the new legislation to consider:

      Is marriage a 24/7 job? How is the presumption of wage calculated? Market rate or last earned income? Is interest charged, and how compounded?

      Reply
  22. Any_Logical_Person
    Any_Logical_Person says:

    She is not the CEO of the company making deals and planning for the future. Did you even do the research what kind of involvement she had with the business at all. Yea she might of supported him and helped out, but to what extent. Maybe she also complained that he works many hours and doesnt spend enough time with her and the kids but at the end of the day it was his idea to quit his job and start this company and he would of done it with or without her help. She does deserve a good chunk of cash from this divorce because she was with him and focused or raising the kids which is not a easy job.
    But to say that Jeff Bezos will get half of her fortune is just stupid. It like saying some Amazon employee deserves half of Bezos net worth because he/she worked for the company since the beginning. Think logically herem if they are equal then she deserves as much as she put into it, none of us really know the dynamics in their marriage, what if all she did is sit on the couch and spend their money once Amazon started being profitable

    Reply
    • Chris
      Chris says:

      She gets half? 🤔 Can’t believe how we attempt to place a value on an immeasurable priceless act such as raising children. Spouses everywhere raise many more kids on far less family incomes. So as long as we are placing monetary value on her part in raising kids lets consider how much more or less she’d be worth if they had 10 kids or none. Regardless you’d still be saying she gets half of $151 billion! Maybe this is a stretch but I’m going to guess some of the $151 billion paid for help other less wealthy moms didn’t have like chefs, maids and butlers.

      So is there a value for her efforts in taking care of the children while he’s making risky billion dollar dollar decisions. ABSOLUTELY. Its NOT $75 billion!

      My last proving point is Jeff’s paychecks have his name on it so legally while married he could write a check to give it all to charity. Why because there is no legal requirement for that donation to be a joint decision.

      So in summary she deserves something for her contributions but don’t automatically assess that as an automatic half of $151 billion.

      Reply
      • HarriedandHopeless
        HarriedandHopeless says:

        We better put a price on it because when the marriage ends, a woman needs to pay for food and you can’t eat the priceless ness of staying home a raising kids thereby sacrificing the ability to make money, create a pension, buy healthcare, and establish a career. It’s a nice thought, really, but unless the wife gets half in the marriage contract, and it is a contract, there will be no reason marry.

        Reply
      • Laura
        Laura says:

        Just pointing out, splitting the money in half is the only way to NOT place monetary value on the priceless act of raising children (well, besides the option of her getting nothing).

        Any other amount that she’d get would require a calculation of how much that job was worth.

        Reply
        • Chris
          Chris says:

          Laura I disagree. Parenting is priceless and that’s the loophole and pitfall of divorcing. It’s become a thinking trap that should be avoided. Why be afraid to put a monetary value on a parenting role? There is plenty of data to feed that. It’s much harder to assess the monetary value of a person suing for pain and suffering but that’s just what some laws have done by putting a cap on that. Why not use a formula based on real American family data? Example….Use the average income for an American home with a kid as a base to demonstrate what an average American non-working spouse would get in a divorce. Then factor in the the number of kids and the working spouse earnings of the divorcing couple. If the working spouse is wealthy, the non-working spouse gets much more for raising the kids but NO WAY near an automatic half. If there is unquestionable proof of neglect or child abuse by the non-working spouse even then deductions should apply.

          Reply
  23. Jeff Bezos
    Jeff Bezos says:

    Silly left-wing, man-hating feminist rubbish. He is the CEO of Amazon, she isn’t. She simply married money–just like Melinda Gates. Neither had the drive to make it on their own. So they found their man to do it for them.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I almost deleted this comment but I want people to know that this type of person is still in the world. For the record, both women had great, high-paying jobs when they got married, and they left those jobs because their spouse because the marriage required it.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • HarriedandHopeless
        HarriedandHopeless says:

        Exactly…We need to call it what it is. The women SACRIFICED their Careers for the sake of their families, their children, their marriage…they didn’t take care of their kids to ESCAPE work they did it as a SACRIFICE.

        Reply
        • Bostonian
          Bostonian says:

          One of the logical mistakes made in conflating the value of being a stay at home spouse with the cost of childcare is that, thanks to the prevalence of assortative mating, the educations and expected earnings of American spouses tend to be similar.

          Bezos didn’t marry someone with no more education beyond that required to be a childcare worker. He married someone with a degree from Princeton, just like his. Her father was a financial planner. She met him because she got a job at the same hedge fund he worked at. She didn’t leave a job at Starbucks to take care of their kids.

          Reply
        • Debunk yourself
          Debunk yourself says:

          Assuming that you agree that it is, why do you think it is so much harder for professional women who aim to excel in the corporate world at CEO level to find a spouse that’s willing to trade off their own career in order to support them by raising a family?

          Sorry sounds a bit asinine I know . I’ll assume some more and say misogyny, social pressure, gender roles?

          All ostensibly valid arguments but is there any room in your thinking for ‘because of what they want’? On a statistical level I mean . You really don’t think it also has to do with what drives and motivates a higher percentage of men and women ?

          I’ll idiotically assume for a third and final time that you are still on board and haven’t written me off as an idiot already . Assuming all of that, then my last question is . If not , why not ?

          This has all admittedly been a bit smug but I’ll be damned if it’s ‘mansplaining’ . I’m asking a genuine question and hoping for a genuine answer.

          You are adamant that its sacrifice in all caps . I’m asking if the reason that ‘sacrifice’ is made so overwhelmingly more often by women than men can ALSO have something to do with what they value and want in life .

          Reply
          • Penelope Trunk
            Penelope Trunk says:

            Most women who are CEOs get a divorce. Because most people who are home with kids are women and men don’t want to hang out with women all day. Men want to be accepted by other men.

            And women choose to stay home because they want to. I think there is very little social pressure to stay home with kids. Women go to school and get told over and over again the point of school is to get a good job. So it’s pretty hard for women to say, okay, forget it. School teaches us to be motivated by external validation: a teacher’s good grade, class rank, etc. The only place to get that sort of external validation as an adult is at work. So I think women are pushed hard to NOT stay home with kids.

            The fact that so many women buck their training and stay home with kids anyway points to how core it is to those women to want to stay home.

            Penelope

    • Jack
      Jack says:

      He started the company that became Amazon a year after they became married. It went public 4 years after they were married. Per the IPO documents, it was only seeing 2,200 hits per day after 1.5 years in operation. Even after going public, the next 5+ years were still a challenge.

      If she was a gold digger, she had one powerful crystal ball. 25 years ago there was no indication that he would be this rich.

      I guess one take away is: Insist on a share a of the company if you’re supporting your partner while they work on a start-up. Instead of fighting over her, we would be praising her financial acumen if she had received stock during the IPO and held it for this entire time. The dollar amounts involved would be similar, but the narrative would have been completely different.

      Reply
  24. Mary Vasilakakos
    Mary Vasilakakos says:

    Brilliant. Just brilliant and much needed perspective. I felt the same as soon as such headlines started surfacing.

    Reply
  25. Andre
    Andre says:

    the fact that the company became what it became under his command (not hers) makes it ‘money made by Jeff’. I’m not saying that she doesn’t deserve a share of it (and I’m not saying that the share should be 50% either). But I am stating the obvious: the money is Jeff’s because he was the one person in command of the organisation responsible for raising that money.
    Additionally, I’m not saying that she couldn’t have made it. In fact, for all we know, she could have made an even better job – and maybe now Jeff would indeed be getting money made by Mackenzie.
    But that was not the case.

    Reply
  26. Earle Riser
    Earle Riser says:

    I’m with Jeri above. These people are billionaires. This whole paradigm that she was at home while he was at work is stupid. They have a small army of housekeepers, butlers, and nannies taking care of their homestead. The real question here is what justifies any two human beings to hold over $100.000.000.000 whether together or separately “as friends.” I’d prefer that they hate each other but live as friends with everyone in the USA that needs acceptable health care.

    Reply
  27. yaddamaster
    yaddamaster says:

    While I agree with the general thrust of your argument (in our marriage, we are equal partners) your comparison to Bill and Melinda Gates is simply and astonishingly inaccurate. Melinda doesn’t co-own everything with Bill. They have a pre-nup.

    I mean, this whole entering marriage with a pre-nup really throws definitions into a nasty conundrum, doesn’t it? You’re supposedly equal partners…..and yet, one clearly isn’t. Said dissolution of the contract clearly spells that out. And that goes for whomever Mackenzie Bezos marries. The guy she marries will almost certainly sign a pre-nup and not be as rich as her. He will NOT be her equal in the marriage.

    Reply
    • Jules the First
      Jules the First says:

      Um…I don’t think you understand how community property works. Everyone keeps what they had going into the marriage. Anything created during the marriage goes 50/50. So Mackenzie gets half of everything Jeff earned at Amazon, and Jeff gets half of everything Mackenzie earned from her books. And Mackenzie’s next husband gets half of whatever she earns while they’re married; and Jeff’s next wife gets half of what he earns while they’re married. The prenup usually applies only to a) property the parties bring into the marriage, b) penalties if someone breaks the marriage vows and c) alimony going forward (ie, if Mackenzie and Jeff had a prenup, she might be entitled to more if he cheated on her; or she might get alimony for a decade, or no alimony, or whatever). Generally you cannot contract your rights away…

      Reply
      • HarriedandHopeless
        HarriedandHopeless says:

        We should follow the divorce settlement through to the end. I point out that Washington state divorce law is equitable, not equal. It will not be 50/50, but it should.

        Reply
  28. LILLY
    LILLY says:

    How strange to see that fake Jeff Bezos post.

    I only met him once, no opinion. Never met his wife, though people I know say she is a decent woman.

    I only know what I’m reading up on as I never had any curiosity about either of them. It is very interesting.

    I think, from what I’m reading that they will behave civily and with the greatest of respect for each other.

    There is no reason for them not to do so.

    Personally I wish them both well.

    Hoping he helps bring trump down, which would make him as well as Mueller a hero in my book.

    Reply
  29. Shelly
    Shelly says:

    Thank you for writing this. I would like to suggest that even if they had not had children, she was still his equal in their partnership. She, like many other women, still sacrificed her career to support his. Even without children, the spouse who is at home takes on many responsibilities that make it possible for the other to focus on their work. Her worth is not tied to her children.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I agree. It’s a much harder argument for people to see, so thank you for pointing it out. I included the link about how a CEO’s job is a two-person job for this very reason.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Peter James
        Peter James says:

        Not true at all.

        He earned the money. She’s entitled to half (and then some).

        If she were a borderline abusive spouse, and a crappy wife and mother, she’d still get the same payout. That’s the law.

        If he were a crappy business man, thete would be very little to split.

        To equate both as equal in building up the wealth to be divided is ludicrous.

        Reply
        • Not That Melissa
          Not That Melissa says:

          “If she were a borderline abusive spouse, and a crappy wife and mother” then it is unlikely that Jeff Bezos would have been able to make Amazon as successful as it is.

          People in horrible family situations suffer PTSD as if they had been to war. That’s a huge cognitive load to carry which doesn’t leave a lot left over for being the best in business.

          Reply
      • leo
        leo says:

        Penelope, if being a CEO is that easy (or creating a multi-billion dollar company), you wouldn’t be here writing blog posts or replying to comments.

        I’ll just be straight up rude here; you can literally buy a wife from some developing countries for as little as a few thousand US dollars.

        How much does it cost to hire a CEO for one of the biggest public companies in the world? To put some context in, two of Amazon’s senior VP’s are compensated over 20 million a year.

        Just because you had some hard times changing diapers, doesn’t mean you deserve the same compensation of a multi-billion dollar CEO.

        Reply
        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Mackenzie started Amazon with Jeff and worked exclusively on it for around 4 years.

          The Winklvi got paid, Eduardo got paid, many other silent tech founders have taken large settlements without lifting many fingers in the build process.

          I’m aiming to guess genius Jeff knew as a married couple working together, Mackenzie would be entitled to his same share and agreements. He wasn’t an idiot when he started the firm.

          Even if he chose a Mail order bride and somehow she suggested it was a great idea for them to quit a hedge fund (yeah right) and start a biz, they would be entitled to half as well.

          Reply
  30. PRG
    PRG says:

    If, 25 years ago, Mackenzie decided to start and lead Amazon while Jeff wrote and raised the children, would Amazon still be what it is today?

    Reply
    • Peter James
      Peter James says:

      Maybe not, but given her gender and the state of family law, especially in Washington, she’d probably get the kids no matter what.

      Reply
  31. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I enjoy the privilege of staying home all day managing the household and creating my own work that hopefully will lead to a large payout in the next year. Before I read this post I was detailing my next planned trip and getting everything organized. It took me awhile to get to a place where I was able to create work for myself and still be a SAHM. There was some resentment at giving up my career while I raised our kids and homeschooled them before sending them to school last year. So, where could I have been if I had stayed in the workplace? Director level at least.

    My spouse’s income, stocks, investments, real estate (anything with just his name) etc is *ours*. That’s the beauty of civil marriage contracts and community property laws. I think the only thing that would remain solely his (vs jointly ours) is an inheritance that is in a trust.

    I will also say that my spouse ENJOYS his work and all the strategic management decisions he gets to make. It’s not that what he does is more difficult than what I do. It’s not. We both enjoy what we are doing with our lives, despite the occasional stresses we each experience. This really deflates the “who worked harder” argument.

    It’s also very telling reading the “anti” comments that some are missing the point while others are just ignorant.

    If one understands that a married couple owns everything jointly (assume no pre-nup) regardless of whose name is on everything, then one should appreciate that headlines should not read that a wife is “taking half”. She is taking what’s hers, he is taking what’s his – as defined by the law. Feelings and opinions have no place in this argument.

    Reply
  32. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I had not been paying much attention to the Bezo’s divorce until I read this post yesterday. I heard about it in the news and wondered – how long will it be before Penelope posts about it? This is a very well written, articulated, and thoughtful post with very good links. I read one link yesterday where you point to MacKenzie’s review of ‘The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon’. I was very impressed with her writing and intellect. So your post and her review sent me to read more about her and the pending divorce. What I learned is she is a powerhouse even though she hasn’t been in the spotlight. She sacrificed her literary career and supported Jeff’s venture into creating Amazon. And even while doing that, she authored two books and raised four children. She was the wind beneath Jeff’s wings much as Mark Rometty is for Virginia (IBM CEO). Yes, I’m referring to the lyrics in Bette Midler’s song. Nobody does it on their own. Everybody needs and gets help in various ways and dosages.
    The New York Times wrote a very good article ( https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/12/style/jeff-bezos-mackenzie-divorce.html ) titled – ‘Who Is MacKenzie Bezos?’ She is a private person but the article does a good job of highlighting all her accomplishments including education, marriage to Jeff, beginnings of Amazon, family, and more. In the article above, an attorney who represented Wendi Murdoch and Jane Welch in their separations notes that Jeff and MacKenzie most likely didn’t fight about how much money each other gets but probably they fought about control. Sounds about right. Divorce is hard. Especially with children.

    Reply
    • leo
      leo says:

      “She sacrificed literally her career”? She must be devastated that she sacrificed her 40k/year position as a secretary to marry Jeff!

      Maybe I can tell you that I sacrificed becoming the next Bill Gates as well because I didn’t drop out of university?

      Reply
  33. LILLY
    LILLY says:

    As someone in their eighties I come from a different era and different expectations in marriage.
    I had talents I never pursued. We all must make that decision at some point and I have no regrets.
    So the man had a midlife crisis and found a new love, nothing out of the ordinary.
    The only thing out of the ordinary is their massive wealth, so immense, that fighting over trivialities seems stupid and a waste of energy.
    I’m sure they will remain friends for the remainder of their lives, even if his future wife won’t like it.
    They have led a scandal free existence for most of their marriage. I haven’t any curiosity over the salacious details
    . They are private people who are going through a divorce..
    Amazon was his baby.
    I don’t see that she was held back in any way by raising their family.
    Washington State ensures there will be a equal division of assets.
    I’m sure she will have support in every way needed
    An interesting discussion..

    Reply
        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          In my divorce (12 years ago) we split our debt, and I accepted my ex’s portion of the debt in exchange for full custody of my kids. So you can imagine that in my mind splitting debt is not uncommon.

          Penelope

          Reply
        • jessica
          jessica says:

          Happens a lot. Probably in 50% or more of divorces. In my parent’s divorce, my father bought out my mother by releasing her from all debt obligations. It was a very illiquid, highly leveraged situation with a business involved.

          Reply
    • Anonymous
      Anonymous says:

      I am a female and was always the primary bread winner in the family. One of the big reasons I got divorced was because my ex-husband had a problem of wanting to start companies and fund them with our joint money, and I couldn’t seem to stop him or force him to get a regular job that produced a consistent paycheck. He spent easily $1M+ over the years we were married on these ventures. He also created a lot of debt in the process. I could see he was eventually going to put me and our children under if I didn’t legally detach myself from him financially. So yes, I took on half of the debt in the divorce to simply get out, but stopped any future bleeding. And now I pay him alimony and child support. There are honestly so many ways you can get unintentionally turned upside down financially when you are legally bound to someone and they have any sort of problem or addiction — it goes in both directions.

      Reply
      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        This situation is way more common than people would ever imagine. The couples who do it don’t talk about it because once you verbalize what’s happening you can’t keep talking about how both people are employed.

        It’s actually fine to use one person’s salary to fund another person’s high risk moon shots, but only if both partners feel okay about it. I have found that this situation most often happens when the male is not comfortable saying he stays home and the female resents having to work on a team of executives where everyone (men) has a spouse running their home life except her.

        All the research about role reversals in high-income families is that it ends in divorce. I think we have skewed perspective because parents in the early years are very vocal about how great things are in reversed roles. And by the time the kids are in 3rd or 4th grade both partners are disappointed with the situation but it’s almost always too late to switch, so there is no point in the parents saying publicly that they wish they hadn’t done it.

        Which is all to say that I really appreciate this comment from Anonymous. She speaks a truth that many will not admit but everyone should heed.

        Penelope

        Reply
      • Peter James
        Peter James says:

        That’s called equality (you’r paying alimony and child support).

        Now you know what it’s like to be a divorced man.

        Reply
  34. Peter
    Peter says:

    I’m finding a lot of the comments about how “only Jeff” could have built the company a bit tedious. Not so much because I disagree that building a company like Amazon is an incredible feat (it is), but because of the assumption that Jeff had no intellectual help or support from his wife? You really think Jeff never came home and talked to Mackenzie about work? Shared/discussed ideas, asked for help, opinions, support?

    The beauty of the marriage partnership is the ability to share all burdens. Those outside the marriage can only guess what happens inside.

    The point of the article is spot on. Now hopefully we can stop gawking at the Bezos’ personal life. They both seem to be incredibly accomplished people. Move on…

    Reply
    • leo
      leo says:

      There’s a reason Jeff pays millions to his senior executives; to share the burden of running Amazon and to carry on responsibilities. Sure he could have discussed business related topics with Mackenzie, or even asked her for suggestions, but that doesn’t mean any of it explicitly contributed to Amazon’s success. In fact, on the opposite side, I could argue that Amazon could potentially be more successful if Jeff had an extremely smart and business savvy wife.

      Reply
  35. Jul
    Jul says:

    Bottom line is that it is a community property state. Legally 50%/50% if there were no other legal contracts to the contrary. I truly hope that Mackenzie is a equal partner at the settlement. The really sad thing about that whole story, other than the impact on the family, is that Jeff’s new woman, set him up and he does not see that. She is no dummy… and intentionally forward the text messages, and had the media on their path, because then there would be no turning back for Jeff. I wonder if they last 25 years? Maybe they are each other’s sole mate… and since there is so much money it will not matter if she spends like crazy. One think is for sure… that Botox will catch up sooner than later.

    Reply
  36. A
    A says:

    Well said but may I add that the stay at home person, usually the Mom, also has a bigger hill to climb if a divorce causes them to get back into the work force after years out of it. The working partner can usually recover financially quicker because they have built up their career whereas the stay at home spouse will most likely have years of catch up. A fifty fifty split is not equitable for this reason.

    Reply
  37. JJ
    JJ says:

    Finally Jeff gets half the royalties from McKenzies books. And if they get optioned? HALF again, suckers! Sweeeet deal. It all worked out in the end.

    Reply
  38. Chris
    Chris says:

    I’m looking at all the posts attempting to justify she should get half because of her efforts as a mom raising the kids while Jeff was working. None of that matters in the eyes of the law!

    Why? She could have been the worst mother and wife the world has ever seen. She could have neglected all duties of a mother to her children and cheated on Jeff 100 times over. NONE of that matters in the eyes of the these laws. She gets half because of the law not because of all the great examples you all point out efforts made by great stay at home spouses.

    Bottom line…her performance as a stay at home wife has nothing to do with the payout in the divorce.

    Now if we consider the law for a second hypothetically do you believe a negligent mom and disloyal wife should get the same as the best of moms/wifes in a divorce?

    Reply
  39. JML
    JML says:

    Thanks for this. I’m a bit embarrassed at how easily I bought into the mainstream narrative about their divorce. Especially as I struggle with the decision to leave my career to stay home with my kids. Maybe that’s why it’s such a struggle – my narrative is off!

    Reply
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