Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos says that he and his wife MacKenzie are divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
“We want to make people aware of a development in our lives,” the couple said in a post on Bezos’ Twitter account Wednesday. “As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”
The carefully worded announcement suggests a cordial divorce and one that is unlikely to disrupt or affect Amazon, currently the world’s most valuable company, at $810 billion just ahead of Microsoft ($789 billion), according to S&P Global Market Intelligence
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.
It’s unclear whether the couple had a prenuptial agreement. But that is unlikely, says Stuart Slotnick, chairman of the matrimonial department of law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in New York City.
“People get prenuptial agreements when they have assets to protect,” Slotnick said. “In this case, they had no real assets vis à vis Amazon because when they got married Amazon did not exist.”
That doesn’t mean the separating couple have not come to an arrangement, he says. In fact, the statement issued by them both “devoid of emotion,” Slotnick said, likely suggests “they might already have an agreement … (and) be done essentially.”
Whatever the agreement, it’s unlikely to disrupt Amazon’s operations, as that would be counterproductive to an amicable separation, he said. “There would be no reason that the company would be affected by this divorce,” Slotnick said.
Crisis management expert Juda Engelmayer said the split “will be about money, and it’s not going to be about control of the company.”
“I’ve dealt with corporate divorces when there was vindictiveness and bitterness involved. This doesn’t seem that way,” said Engelmayer, president of HeraldPR, a New York public relations firm.
As part of the settlement, MacKenzie Bezos could get a “lasting annuity based on the company’s performance,” he said. “But in terms of actual control of the company, splitting up and having co-CEOs, I don’t think that is where this is going.”
A prenuptial agreement would not have been out of the question for the couple, as they were common in New York more than two decades ago and the couple could have gotten one because “they had significant earning potential,” said Wendy Crew, a Birmingham, Alabama, attorney who specializes in family law issues.
But the language in their announcement suggests they may have had a postnuptial agreement, similar to a prenup but arranged after earnings and finances change or bad acts in a marriage occur, she said.
The wording, Crew said, “certainly indicates that the great majority of the dissolution of the marriage had been worked out amicably before they made the statement. If the divorce has been filed, probably the terms had been worked out even before the filing of the divorce, which is not unusual in a high net worth case.”
Similarly, any custody issues have been likely settled, too, as the two mention “wonderful futures ahead as parents” in the statement. “They are successful in their lives,” Crew said, “so most likely they are going to be able to be successful co-parenting together.”