"Steve and Elaine Wynn´s 2010 $1 billion divorce settlement, the largest to date, will likely pale in comparison once the split between Jeff Bezos and his soon-to-be-ex MacKenzie is finalized.
Bezos just shared the news of his imminent divorce in a tweet, adding that he and his wife of 25 years “remain a family and... remain cherished friends." The message was signed, “Jeff & MacKenzie" and everything points to an amicable split, rather than a nasty battle which might cause their fortune and legacy to suffer.
“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," wrote the Bezos, who have four children together, including one adopted from China.
Though there are rumors that Jeff has been seeing another woman, both MacKenzie and he realize that the effect of an ugly and public fight could have an immense value reduction result to their companies. Like many other divorcing film stars, sports figures, and high visibility personal brands, they are well aware of the perilous prospect of any potential public airing of their intimate laundry.
With a net worth estimated at $137 billion, Bezos can surely afford an expensive divorce, but the problem will be for the attorneys and accountants when they are faced with the question as to how much Bezos' most successful creation, Amazon, is worth. What is the most valuable company in the world worth? It would overwhelm the court system just to argue over the company's value and the rest of Bezos' many holdings and financial interests around the world.
Whatever Amazon's price tag might be, the Bezoses will have to share it, due to the fact that Washington State is a community property jurisdiction. This means that the fortune amassed during the marriage is communal property.
Considering Jeff founded Amazon a year after he married MacKenzie, the assets in question are something to reckon with. She might, in fact, receive a staggering $66 billion, based on Amazon's current valuation and the amount of stocks owned by Bezos. In this scenario, it would be a shock if she should get anything under tens of billions.
Depending on that figure, Bezos might be forced to sell part of his ownership of Amazon in order to pay for his divorce. If that happens, he might no longer be in control of the company. But, how much is Amazon worth without Bezos' vision and guidance? Probably not the same as with him on board…
If MacKenzie doesn't want to kill the chicken that lays the golden eggs, it is likely that she will settle for an amount that doesn't compromise Bezos' control of the e-commerce giant, or come up with a payment plan that allows him to keep guiding Amazon's future.
Billionaire divorces are much that same as for the rest of us. The hurt and pain are just the same, the same laws apply; the only difference is the scale and value of an equitable distribution. Certainly, more lawyers and more accountants and tax advisors are usually involved, but the rest can be quite similar to any other divorce.
Hot Startups and Divorce
There are numerous examples of messy tech billionaire divorces. Silicon Valley has seen many fierce battles over ownership of some of the largest global companies. When FarmVille billionaire Mark Pincus, who was one of the first to invest in Twitter and Facebook, split from his former wife Alison, his $1.28 billion fortune was at stake. In spite of the existence of a prenup, Alison asked the court to nullify it, because her husband's finances had changed so dramatically during the marriage.
In the unique landscape of today's tech billionaires, with massive wealth, complex assets, and alpha personalities, many are opting for prenups, but Bezos, who married a quarter of a century ago, reportedly didn't have one. And although he could have implemented a post-nuptial prenup at some point, that was not the case. Others, like Snapchat billionaire Evan Spiegel, were more careful. When Spiegel decided to tie the knot with model Miranda Kerr, his attorneys presented her with an ironclad prenup to secure his $4 billion fortune.
Without a prenup, any billion-dollar divorce might go South. But while many billionaires and mega celebrities might have the inclination to fight a fierce battle, in the case of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, my forecast is for a mostly turbulence-free split.
The Bezos Legacy
Yet, conflicts might still arise. I believe the most complex negotiations will come down to two things: the family's philanthropy and the actual valuation of an immense asset mosaic. On the philanthropy front, these heavily moneyed individuals will have to make important decisions about their now-separate legacies and contributions to society. At this level, they are not fighting about who will pay for the kids' college or who will get the Hamptons house. Bezos v. Bezos will likely come down to what MacKenzie wants for her legacy, her philanthropy, rather than merely her lifestyle.
While some high-net-worth divorces can end a career or completely ruin someone's prospects. Surely, this is not going to be the case for either Bezos or his wife. After all, this is the man who said, “It's not an experiment if you know it's going to work."
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.