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The Bezos Divorce: Splitting The World’s Most Valuable Company

People

"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.

Counting Billions

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."

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Choosing the Right Corporate Structure: Which Business Entity Should You Go With?

Business entities can be defined as the corporate, tax and legal structures which an organization chooses to officially follow at the time of its official registration with the state authorities. In total, there are fifteen different types of business entities, which would be the following.


  • Sole Proprietorship
  • General Partnership
  • Limited Partnership or LP
  • Limited Liability Partnership or LLP
  • Limited Liability Limited Partnership or LLLP
  • Limited Liability Company or LLC
  • Professional LLC
  • Professional Corporation
  • B-Corporation
  • C-Corporation
  • S-Corporation
  • Nonprofit Organization
  • Estate
  • Cooperative Organization
  • Municipality

As estates, municipalities and nonprofits do not concern the main topic here, the following discussions will exclude the three.

Importance of the State: The Same Corporate Structure Will Vary from State to State

All organizations must register themselves as entities at the state level in United States, so the rules and regulations governing them differ quite a bit, based on the state in question.

What this means is that a Texas LLC for example will not operate under the same rules and regulations as an LLC registered in New York. Also, an LLC in Texas can have the same name as another company that is registered in a different state, but it's not advisable given how difficult it could become in the future while filing for patents.

To know more about such quirks and step-by-step instructions on how to start an LLC in Texas, visit howtostartanllc.com, and you could get started with the online process immediately. The information and services on the website are not just limited to Texas LLC organizations either, but they have a dedicated page for guiding fresh entrepreneurs through the corporate tax structures in every state.

Sole Proprietorship: Default for Freelancers and Consultants

There is only one owner or head in a sole proprietorship, and that's what makes it ideal for one-man businesses that deal with freelance work and consulting services. Single man sole proprietorships are automatic in nature, therefore, registration with the state is unnecessary.

Sole proprietorships are also suited to a degree for singular teams such as a small construction crew, a group of handymen, or even miniature establishments in retail. Also, this puts the owner's personal financial status at jeopardy.

Due to the fact that a sole proprietorship entity puts all responsibilities for paying taxes and returning loans, it directly jeopardizes the sole proprietor's personal belongings in case of a lawsuit, or even after a failed loan repayment.

This is the main reason why even the most miniature establishments find LLCs to be a better option, but this is not the only reason either. Sole proprietors also find it hard to start their business credit or even get significant business loans.

General Partnership: Equal Responsibilities

The only significant difference between a General Partnership and a Sole Proprietorship is the fact that two or more owners share responsibilities and liabilities equally in a General Partnership, as opposed to there being only one responsible and liable party in the latter. Other than that, they more or less share the same pros and cons.

Registration with the state is not necessary in most cases, and although it still puts the finances of the business owners at risk here, the partnership divides the liability, making it a slightly better option than sole proprietorship for small teams of skilled workers or even small restaurants and such.

Limited Partnership: Active and Investing Partners

A Limited Partnership (LP) has to be registered with a state and whether it has just two or more partners, there are two different types of partners in all LP establishments.

The active partner or the general partner is the one who is responsible and liable for operating the business in its entirety. The silent or investing partner, on the other hand, is the one who invests funds or other resources into the organization. The latter has very limited liability or control over the company's operations.

It's a perfect way for investors to put their money into a sector that they are personally not experienced with, but have access to people who do. From the perspective of the general partners, they have similar responsibilities and liabilities to those in a general partnership.

It's the default strategy for startups to find funding and as long as the idea is sound, it has made way for multiple successful entrepreneurial ventures in the recent past. However, personal liability still looms as a dangerous prospect for the active partners to consider.

Limited Liability Company and Professional LLC

Small businesses have no better entity structure to follow than the LLC, given that it takes multiple good ideas from various corporate structures, virtually eliminating most cons that are inherent to them. Any and all small businesses that are in a position to or are in requirement of signing up with their respective state, usually choose an LLC entity because of the following reasons:

  • It removes the dangerous aspect of personal liability if the business falls in debt or is sued for reparations
  • The state offers the choice of choosing between corporation and partnership tax slabs
  • The limited legalities and paperwork make it suited for small businesses

While more expensive than a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, a professional LLC is going to be a much safer choice for freelancers and consultants, especially if it involves risk of any kind. This makes it ideal for even single man businesses such a physician's practice or the consultancy services of an accountant.

B, C and S-Corporation

By definition, all corporation entities share most of the same attributes and as the term suggests, they're more suited for larger or at least medium sized businesses in any sector. The differences between the three are vast once you delve into the tax structures which govern each entity.

However, the basic differences can be observed by simply taking a look at each of their definitive descriptions, as stated below.

C-Corporation – This is the default corporate entity for large or medium-large businesses, complete with a board of directors, a CEO/CEOs, other executive officers and shareholders.

The shareholders or owners are not liable for debts or legal dispute settlements in a C-Corporation, and they may qualify for lower tax slabs than is possible in any other corporate structure. On becoming big enough, they also have the option to become a publicly traded company, which is ideal for generating growth investments.

B- Corporation – the same rules apply as a C-Corporation, but due to their registered and certified commitment to social and environmental standards maintenance, B-Corporations will have a more lenient tax structure to deal with.

S-Corporation – Almost identical to a C-Corporation, the difference is in scale, as S-Corporations are only meant for small businesses, general partnerships and even sole proprietors. The main difference here is that due to the creation of a pass-through entity, aka a S-Corporation, the owner/owners do not have liability for business debt and legal disputes. They also are not taxed on the corporate slab.

Cooperative: Limited Application

A cooperation structure in most cases is a voluntary partnership of limited responsibilities that binds people in mutual interest - it is an inefficient structure due to the voluntary nature of its legal bindings, which often makes it unsuitable for traditional business operations. Nevertheless, the limited liability clause exempts all members of a cooperative from having personal liability for paying debts and settling claims.

This should clear up most of the confusion surrounding the core concepts and their suitability. In case you are wondering why the Professional Corporation structure wasn't mentioned, then that's because it has very limited applications. Meant for self-employed, skilled professionals or small organizations founded by them, they have less appeal now in comparison to an LLC or an S-Corporation.