The Jeff Bezos divorce: $136 billion and Amazon in the middle

The Jeff Bezos divorce: $136 billion and Amazon in the middle

NEW YORK - AFP
The Jeff Bezos divorce: $136 billion and Amazon in the middle

The announcement by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world's wealthiest man, and his wife that they will divorce has captivated the imagination. How will they split his giant fortune, estimated at $136 billion? And what will happen to the Internet retail giant -- will his soon-to-be ex get a significant stake, and how would that affect his control of the company?

The former MacKenzie Tuttle knew the 54-year-old Bezos before fame and wealth came calling.

The couple met in 1992 when he was a hedge fund manager on Wall Street, before he became an entrepreneur who changed the way hundreds of millions of people live. They married less than a year later.

She was by his side for the entire Amazon adventure, from the company's humble beginnings in his Seattle garage in 1994 to its mammoth success today. They have four children, three sons and an adopted daughter, aged up to their late teens.

As of Jan. 9, when the couple formally announced they would divorce after a long separation, the 48-year-old MacKenzie, a novelist, is likely to become the richest woman in the world.

According to celebrity news outlet TMZ, the Bezoses did not have a prenuptial agreement, which could mean an even split of assets. 

The couple has numerous residences: in Seattle, where Amazon is based, but also in Washington DC, Texas and Beverly Hills, California.

Bezos, who was once Amazon's primary stakeholder, now owns about 16 percent of the company, the bulk of his net worth. At mid-day Jan. 10, that stake translated to about $130 billion.

Any divorce settlement would include his stock portfolio. If it were split in half that would leave Bezos, who still runs the company, with an eight percent stake.

Given they appear to be on good terms, they could decide to put their shares into a trust or other legal mechanism in order to maintain the same power among Amazon's shareholders.

They may also end up in an acrimonious divorce, which would surely cloud the prospects of Amazon, both on Wall Street and from a public relations perspective.

Amazon, Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Tuttle