Jeff Bezos to keep 75% of his Amazon stake in divorce

MacKenzie Bezos, the Amazon CEO's soon-to-be ex-wife, will be worth about $35 billion.

Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Ben Fox Rubin
3 min read
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Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos at an LA gala last January. 

Greg Doherty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos said Thursday they've finalized their divorce, with MacKenzie Bezos gaining 4% of Amazon's stock as part of the split.

The 4% stake would make MacKenzie Bezos one of Amazon's four biggest shareholders and one of the world's 30 richest people, worth about $35 billion, just above somputer industry veteran Michael Dell

Jeff Bezos will continue to own about 12% of Amazon. That amount will allow him to remain Amazon's largest shareholder and the world's richest person, even after giving up 25% of his Amazon ownership. He'll be worth roughly $115 billion, still over $10 billion more than Bill Gates, No. 2 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. MacKenzie Bezos agreed to allow Jeff Bezos to keep voting control of her shares. The entire 16% stake being split in the divorce was previously only under Jeff Bezos' name.

MacKenzie Bezos also agreed to give over to Jeff Bezos her interests in The Washington Post and Blue Origin, Bezos' space-travel and rocket company.

"Excited about my own plans," MacKenzie Bezos wrote Thursday on Twitter. "Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next."

Amazon's stock was little changed after the announcement. Amazon representatives declined to comment for this story.

According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission,  a divorce petition was filed Thursday and a divorce decree -- the final step to complete a divorce -- should be issued in about 90 days. Shares MacKenzie Bezos sells in the open market or gives to a charity that then sells those shares will no longer be under Jeff Bezos' control. If MacKenzie Bezos transfers her shares in any other way, Jeff Bezos will continue to maintain voting control of those shares, the filing said. Unless he approves a change, that arrangement will terminate "only upon the death or a determination of legal incapacity of Mr. Bezos."

The finalization of the divorce should help Jeff Bezos move on from a particularly turbulent time for him. For years, he's maintained a relatively quiet personal life, even after becoming enormously wealthy and running the world's largest e-commerce company. That all changed soon after the divorce announcement.

Also, MacKenzie Bezos' agreement to give over control of her Amazon shares and not taking ownership of Blue Origin and The Washington Post helps clear up the uncertainty over the future ownership and operation of those organizations.

Watch this: The new wild and crazy life of Amazon's Jeff Bezos (The 3:59, Ep. 518)

The couple went public with their impending divorce in January, after marrying 25 years ago, one year prior to Bezos' founding of Amazon. While their announcement started with a seemingly heartfelt comment about staying close friends, the National Enquirer tabloid hours later revealed that Jeff Bezos had been dating Lauren Sanchez, a former TV reporter who founded an aerial film production company called Black Ops Aviation.

The situation got messier when Bezos a month later published a Medium post saying the National Enquirer had nude photos of him. He claimed the publication was threatening to release those photos unless he ended a private investigation into how the tabloid got hold of his text messages to Sanchez.

Michael Sanchez, Lauren's brother and a longtime source for the Enquirer, leaked those texts to the publication, according to reports by both The Wall Street Journal and The Daily Beast. He hasn't admitted that he was the source. 

First published at 10:17 a.m. PT.
Update 11:17 a.m. PT:  Adds background information throughout.