Even if Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos don't split his $137 billion fortune evenly, she still has a chance at becoming the world's richest woman
- Billionaire couple Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos announced their divorce on Wednesday, a split that will likely change the rankings of the world's richest people.
- MacKenzie could be entitled to half of Jeff's $137 billion fortune because they live in Washington state, where assets acquired during a marriage are split 50/50.
- But even if the couple doesn't split the their assets evenly, MacKenzie might still overtake Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, worth $45.6 billion, as the world's richest woman.
- MacKenzie only needs to come away with 33.4% of the $137 billion to be the new richest woman in the world.
MacKenzie Bezos could be poised to become the world's richest woman.Her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is the richest person in the world, with a fortune of $137 billion, and she'll likely be walking away with a good chunk of that after their divorce, which they announced on Wednesday.
Given that Jeff founded Amazon after they got married, MacKenzie could be entitled to half of her husband's Amazon-based fortune.
Jeff and MacKenzie live in Washington state, one of nine US states where everything acquired throughout the marriage - from real estate to income - is considered joint property. That means their assets could be split 50/50, unlike in the other 41 states, where a marital estate is made up of assets acquired under each spouse's name and isn't considered joint property unless both names are on the deed, as Business Insider previously reported.
If MacKenzie walked away from the divorce settlement with exactly half of Jeff's fortune, that would make her worth an estimated $68.5 billion -and the richest woman in the world by nearly $23 billion.
But Melisse G. Burstein, a Miami-based CPA who specializes in accounting in high stakes litigation, said it's not likely the billionaire couple will end up splitting assets 50/50."Because much of Jeff Bezos' net worth is tied up in Amazon stock, it would be difficult to figure out how to get the wife 50%," Burstein told Business Insider. "I believe dividing the shares in the company could result in Jeff Bezos' control of Amazon being diluted. This would be against MacKenzie Bezos' interest as it has the potential of devaluing the company and thus devaluing the amount the individual shares are worth."
If the couple signed a prenuptial or a postnuptial agreement, that would overrule state law, Michael Stutman, a New York-based divorce attorney, told Business Insider.
Given the couple's vast wealth and assets, it's likely they have some sort of marital financial agreement.
The billionaire couple owns a nearly 29,000-square-foot estate outside of Seattle, Washington, as well as two neighboring Beverly Hills mansions, a Texas ranch, the largest house in Washington, DC, and a set of four condos in New York City.
The richest woman in the world
It's unknown whether Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos signed a postnup. But MacKenzie could walk away with significantly less than 50% of the $137 billion and still become the richest woman in the world. That title is currently held by Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, who controls 33% of L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics maker, and who is worth $45.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.
If MacKenzie comes away with even 33.4% of her husband's $137 billion fortune, she would still be worth a staggering $45.7 billion, edging out Bettencourt Meyers.
However Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos end up dividing their assets, the business of two billionaires getting divorced is a complicated one. Super-wealthy couples often have to deal with complex and illiquid assets, company issues, and public perception, divorce attorneys say.For this particular couple, the question of Amazon shares complicates matters even further.
The amount MacKenzie will walk away with will be "dependent on how the divorce terms are structured and whether it is feasible for Mackenzie to acquire Amazon shares without diluting Jeff's control of the company," Burstein said.