The world’s richest couple announced in a joint statement Wednesday that they are getting a divorce “after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation.”
“We want to make people aware of a development in our lives.”
Their announcement sparked immediate speculation about the potential division of their vast fortune: Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a net worth estimated at $137 billion.
But something else stood out in their statement, posted on Bezos’s Twitter account: The couple really wants everyone to know that they are staying friends.
“After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” the statement reads.
“We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”
The couple’s repeated assurances of their ongoing closeness were somewhat called into question a few hours after they released their statement when the National Enquirer teased a story claiming that Jeff Bezos was having an affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. On Thursday, the National Enquirer released what it said were “sleazy text messages” sent by Bezos to Sanchez.
A source close to the Bezoses, who asked to remain anonymous, told our sources that they had separated before Jeff Bezos began dating Sanchez. It has been reported that Bezos and his wife were already separated when his relationship with Sanchez began.
“Jeff remains focused and engaged on all things Amazon,” Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesperson, told our sources.
Still, the Enquirer story complicates the narrative of the Bezoses as “cherished friends” and business partners who just happen not to be in a romantic relationship anymore. And the fact that the Bezoses decided to present that narrative may be telling.
In recent years, the aggressively amicable celebrity divorce has become commonplace so much so that high-profile couples seem almost expected to trumpet their friendliness after their marriages dissolves. The “conscious uncoupling” of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin in 2014 is the most famous example, but others abound, from Larry and Laurie David sharing family dinners after their split to billionaire Tom Steyer pledging to work together on the “dream of justice” with his wife, even as they began living apart.
Remaining close can work for some divorced couples, and consciously uncoupling celebrities can serve as models of a less-acrimonious way to split up. But there’s also an incentive for high-profile couples to portray their relationship as friendly even when it isn’t, especially if there are shared business or charitable ventures involved.
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos recently started a $2 billion anti-homelessness fund, and speculation about what their divorce will mean for Amazon is already swirling. Regardless of the details of their relationship, they have every reason to portray themselves as friends and partners for the sake of shareholders, grantees, and the millions of Americans watching their every move. Their message of “loving exploration” is a reminder that when you’re in charge of a big brand, your marriage becomes one too and so does your divorce.
How Jeff Bezos And MacKenzie Bezos divorce will be bad for Amazon?
Currently, we do not know why Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are getting divorced, or what role, if any, Jeff Bezos’s relationship with Lauren Sanchez played in the split. “He and Mackenzie have been working on this for a long time, and they worked very hard to fix it,” the source close to the couple told us.
“Then they became separated, and then Jeff started dating Lauren.”
The Bezoses wrote their statement together, the source said, and it should be taken at face value.
Still, the couple does have an incentive to present a united front. MacKenzie Bezos was, by many accounts, instrumental in the founding of Amazon. As per the details, the two met when they worked at New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw. When they drove to Seattle to start Amazon, MacKenzie Bezos was reportedly behind the wheel. According to a 1999 Wired interview, she negotiated Amazon’s first freight contracts from the in-house Starbucks in a Barnes & Noble.
“I was there when he wrote the business plan, and I worked with him and many others […] in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history,” MacKenzie Bezos wrote in an Amazon review of the book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon.
In recent years, the Bezoses had also embarked on charitable ventures together. Last year, they established the Bezos Day One Fund, a $2 billion fund aimed at making grants to existing nonprofits fighting homelessness and establishing preschools in low-income areas.
The Bezos divorce could have implications for Amazon. Under the law in Washington State, where the couple lives, MacKenzie Bezos could be entitled to half her husband’s assets. Dividing those assets would require that Bezos sell some of his stock in Amazon, which would dilute his control of the company as well as changing its public image as Del Valle points out, “he’s been the face of the company since its founding in 1996.”
As the face of Amazon, Bezos has every reason to calm investors and industry-watchers by presenting his upcoming divorce as an amicable one. Regardless of what happens with the couple’s assets, its likely best for Amazon if its founder doesn’t get embroiled in a nasty public divorce. The same is true for the couple’s charitable efforts, which will certainly go more smoothly if they’re not publicly sniping at each other.
Meanwhile, Amazon has faced a storm of bad press in the wake of worker strikes and the company’s announcement that it is establishing new headquarters in New York City and Arlington, Virginia.
In 2018’s holiday season came with numerous guides to canceling Amazon Prime subscriptions. It’s not at all clear that negative coverage has hurt Amazon’s bottom line, but it’s also not a good time for Amazon’s public face to be seen as a bad husband or a bad ex-husband.
Especially embarrassing for Bezos are text messages released by the National Enquirer on Thursday, which the publication claims he sent to Sanchez months before the divorce announcement.
“I love you, alive girl,” one reads. “I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”
“I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in,” says another.
A lawyer for Bezos provided comment to the National Enquirer but apparently did not deny that the text messages were real. The lawyer said that the Amazon CEO, who also owns the Washington Post, “supports journalistic efforts and does not intend to discourage reporting about him.”
Meanwhile, there’s another wrinkle in the story of the Bezos divorce: US President Donald Trump. Trump has long expressed his antipathy for Bezos and Amazon, even asking the US postmaster general to increase Amazon’s shipping costs.
Trump is also a noted ally of National Enquirer chief executive David Pecker, as Adam K. Raymond writes at New York Magazine. The National Enquirer’s parent company, AMI, entered into a “catch and kill” agreement with former Playboy model Karen McDougal to keep her from talking publicly about an affair she says she had with Trump, the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and others have reported.
Because of these connections, some are speculating that the Enquirer may have pursued the Bezos story to curry favor with Trump. An AMI spokesperson denied this to New York Magazine: “The National Enquirer has been doggedly investigating this story for four months and the extraordinary details and evidence uncovered by our team, and presented to Mr. Bezos’s representatives for comment early this week, underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has long been known for.”
Whatever the case, Trump seems to be enjoying the news of the Bezos divorce, telling reporters “it’s going to be a beauty.”
Will this separation result in disruption of Amazon?
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