Jeff Bezos getting a $137 billion divorce without a prenup

ON January 9, 2019, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos jointly made a statement in Jeff’s twitter account that they are getting a divorce.  As many people know, Jeff Bezos is the founder of Amazon which today is the largest publicly traded company by market cap at $809 billion as of January 10, 2019.  When Jeff and MacKenzie were married in 1993, he did not have much in terms of net worth. However the following year, Jeff founded Amazon in July 1994.  Today, Jeff Bezos is estimated to be worth $137,000,000,000.  The couple resides in the State of Washington which happens to be a community property state.  This means anything Jeff acquired during the marriage is community property and thus his spouse MacKenzie has a 50% interest in the community regardless of who’s name the asset is under or in this case the Amazon stock is under.  In the absence of a prenuptial agreement or even a post nuptial agreement, all assets Mr. Bezos accumulated during the 25 year marriage is community property and his wife has a 50% interest.  The outcome could have been different had the couple signed either a prenuptial agreement or post nuptial agreement where they could have laid out terms which provided for a different division of property.

Family law cases are governed by state law. Since the Bezos’ are resident of Washington, Washington State law will apply to their divorce case.  Generally, the divorce rates for the super wealthy is lower than the general population due to impact on their net worth and businesses they own.  Even though most of Jeff Bezos assets are community, this divorce case will be extremely complicated due to the vast holdings of the couple. 

The majority of Bezos’ net worth is in Amazon Stocks.  However, dividing the stock interest can be tricky without diluting Mr. Bezos’ control of the company.   It is likely that MacKenzie Bezos would want the family fortune to continue to grow to allow her husband to maintain control of Amazon.  It is probably in her best interest not to dilute her husband’s ownership share of Amazon and not to push for a settlement that would require Jeff Bezos to sell shares and reduce his stake in the company.

Jeff Bezos also owns other ventures which are not as easily valued as a public company such as Amazon.  He owns a private held aerospace company called Blue Origin.  He funds this company by selling $1 billion per year of Amazon stocks.  It would be more challenging valuing such a business in the context of a divorce case.  I supposed they can look at the value of similar businesses such as Elon Musk’s Space X.  Bezos also owns The Washington Post through his company Nash Holdings, LLC.

The couple also owns one of the largest real estate holdings from a 135,000 acre ranch in West Texas which is the location of the Blue Origin operation to properties in Beverly Hills, Washington, and New York.  All these properties would have to be valued as well.

In addition to that, the couple has made pledges to various charities.  Last year, the couple committed to $2 Billion to “Day One Fund” which supports nonprofits that help the homeless and create a network of preschools for the low income.  This may end up being the largest divorce in history so far.  Divorce could happen to any married couple.  People outgrow each other or fall in love with other people.  For business owners, an unfortunate event such as a divorce would be less of a mess if they have a properly executed prenuptial agreement or even after the marriage a post marital agreement.

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Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice.  The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information.  This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed.  The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you.  This article does create any attorney client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C.  This article is not a solicitation.

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Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist.  He was President of the Philippine American Bar Association.  He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.  He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration.  He has extensive CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 747, Los Angeles, CA, 90010.  Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail  HYPERLINK “mailto:kenneth@kenreyeslaw.com” kenneth@kenreyeslaw.com or visit our website at Kenreyeslaw.com

Atty. Kenneth Reyes
Atty. Kenneth Reyes

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He was President of the Philippine American Bar Association. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. He has extensive CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 747, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail kureyeslaw@gmail.com or visit our website at Kenreyeslaw.com.

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