Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will retain voting control of his entire $143 billion stakes in the company under a divorce settlement with his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, who will own 25 per cent of those shares, the couple said on Thursday, removing uncertainty over control of the online retailer.
The world’s richest couple had announced their impending divorce in a joint Twitter statement in January, causing some to worry that Jeff Bezos could wind up with less Amazon voting power or that he or MacKenzie would liquidate large positions.
“It takes the issue off the table, with less turbulence than you might have expected,” said an investor, whose company owns several million dollars worth of Amazon shares but who asked for anonymity because of firm policy.
MacKenzie Bezos will wind up with a stake in Amazon that is worth roughly $36 billion. Her shares represent a 4 per cent stake in Amazon, according to a regulatory filing by the company.
The Amazon shares will make her the world’s third-richest woman while Jeff Bezos will remain the world’s richest person, according to Forbes.
The Bezos tweeted separately on Thursday that under their settlement MacKenzie will give up her interests in the Washington Post, which Jeff Bezos bought in 2013 and which has been a frequent target of criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump, and the rocket company Blue Origin he founded in 2000.
“Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff,” MacKenzie Bezos said in her tweet outlining the divorce settlement, the first and only post from an account created this month.
The two did not provide any further financial details about the settlement.
“INFLUENCE WOULD BE THE SAME”
Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, said in the filing that 4 per cent of its outstanding shares would be registered in MacKenzie Bezos’ name after court approval of the divorce, which is expected to occur in about 90 days.
Jeff Bezos, whom Amazon listed in its most recent proxy statement as its single largest shareholder with a 16.3 per cent stake, will keep sole voting authority over the shares unless MacKenzie donates them to a nonprofit or sells them in the open market.
Amazon shares closed down 0.1 per cent at $1,818.86. Jeff Bezos, 55, is seen as essential to Amazon’s meteoric growth and stock price rise since he founded the company as an online bookseller in 1994. He has credited MacKenzie, 48, for her support when he uprooted the young couple to Seattle from New York to launch Amazon.
“When I think about Amazon, and the influence Bezos has on Amazon, I would argue his influence would be the same if he had 51 per cent shares outstanding or 1 per cent. I think his influence is dictated by his vision for Amazon,” D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte said.
MacKenzie Bezos’ stake in Amazon is worth more than the market values of nearly 70 per cent of the components of the S&P 500.
The settlement also suggests that Amazon will be spared the kind of boardroom battle that has plagued other companies whose owners are dealing with family rifts, even though the divorce had jolted the once-private Bezos couple into the public spotlight.