Last week, family lawyers saw the world’s largest divorce settlement ever made. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and the world’s wealthiest man, handed over $38 billion (£29 billion) to his now ex-wife, Mackenzie, as part of their financial settlement on divorce. This significant sum came from Mr Bezos transferring a 4% stake (just under 20 million shares) in the online shopping giant, Amazon. Mr Bezos will retain a 12% stake, leaving him to still be the world’s wealthiest man.
Mr and Mrs Bezos were married for 25 years and had four children together during that time. Mr Bezos founded Amazon in 1994 when the parties had already been married for a year. Under the law in England and Wales, the couple’s stake in the company forms part of their matrimonial assets given that the company is a product of their marriage. The court’s starting point for a long marriage, in a case such as the Bezos couple, would be to divide the matrimonial assets equally between the parties. This means that any asset that has been accrued during a couple’s marriage is viewed as matrimonial and therefore both parties are jointly entitled to it.
If a couple were unable to reach a financial settlement between them amicably, an asset such as a company would likely be subject to valuation during any court proceedings. This can be very costly and time consuming for the parties. The Bezos couple, however, are an example of how divorcing couples can reach a financial settlement agreement amicably without having to turn to court proceedings. This can help a couple to move on with their lives a lot sooner and avoid a litigious and drawn out divorce process.
If you are wondering what Mrs Bezos is going to do with her $38 billion, Mrs Bezos has pledged to give away at least half of her fortune to charitable causes.