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MacKenzie Scott, formerly Bezos, donates $1.7 billion to Black, LGBTQ and public health groups

The update comes about a year after the major Amazon shareholder joined the Giving Pledge.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott at the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Taylor Hill/FilmMagic via Getty Images

MacKenzie Scott, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' ex-wife and the world's 13th richest person, said Tuesday she's given away close to $1.7 billion since last year.

She also said Tuesday she changed her last name from Bezos to Scott, her middle name.

Scott last May, just before her divorce from Bezos was finalized, joined the Giving Pledge, an agreement among some of the world's wealthiest people to donate at least half their money to charity in their lifetimes or in their wills. Her ex-husband, the world's richest person, is notably absent from this group, but he has substantially increased his charitable work over the past two years.

She said Tuesday she's donated to 116 organizations, after working with a team of nonprofit advisers since last fall to identify the right causes. These groups include Black, LGBTQ and public health organizations, including Transgender Law Center, UNCF (United Negro College Fund), Howard University, Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Black Girls Code. Unless these organizations' leaders requested otherwise, the donations were given upfront and with no strings attached to allow these groups to spend the money however they thought was best.

"Though this work is ongoing and will last for years," she wrote on Medium on Tuesday, "I'm posting an update today because my own reflection after recent events revealed a dividend of privilege I'd been overlooking: the attention I can call to organizations and leaders driving change."

About her commitment to giving, she added: "A civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable."

The timing of Scott's announcement is notable. She tends to avoid public statements and had last tweeted more than a year ago, about her divorce. The update on her giving comes just a day before Jeff Bezos will go before a congressional committee to talk about antitrust concerns at Amazon and other big tech companies.

When her divorce was finalized last July, Scott was worth about $38 billion. She's now worth just over $60 billion, thanks to the huge growth of Amazon's stock. Her ex-husband, worth $114 billion last July, is now worth just over $180 billion, according to Bloomberg. Their wealth comes almost entirely from their holdings of Amazon stock.

Bezos had been criticized for years for failing to donate much of his money to charity. In 2018, he started to change that by creating the Day One charitable fund, with an initial investment of $2 billion. This year, he followed up that giving with a $10 billion pledge to fight climate change. Despite these efforts, he is still often criticized for not giving away a larger percentage of his massive wealth.

Here is the list Scott posted on Medium of the types of organizations that received funding. The full list of individual organizations is in the Medium post:

  • Racial equity: $586,700,000
  • LGBTQ+ equity: $46,000,000
  • Gender equity: $133,000,000
  • Economic mobility: $399,500,000
  • Empathy and bridging divides: $55,000,000
  • Functional democracy: $72,000,000
  • Public health: $128,300,000
  • Global development: $130,000,000
  • Climate change: $125,000,000