Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie are getting divorced, and it could be the most expensive one in history.
The divorce between Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos and wife, MacKenzie, may be more complicated than originally expected.
The couple, who have been married 25 years, announced their divorce Wednesday over Twitter. They had been separated but are now making it official, their statement said.
“As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” they said.
Subsequent news reports suggest the timing of their announcement may have been forced. The National Enquirer is publishing in its latest edition, out Thursday, what it calls a four-month investigation tracking Bezos’s time spent with former Fox L.A. TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, the wife of Hollywood talent agent Patrick Whitesell.
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Some considered it an unlikely coincidence that the Enquirer, which has in the past cozied up to President Trump, would invest such time investigating Bezos who has been a Trump target. Trump has lumped The Washington Post, owned by Bezos, within the a mainstream media that is the “enemy of the people.” And he has attacked Amazon, saying it has taken advantage of too-low shipping delivery rates from the U.S. Postal Service.
David Pecker, chairman and CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media, has told prosecutors he helped “deal with negative stories” that could have hurt Trump’s presidential campaign. He and Dylan Howard, American Media’s chief content officer, whose name was among those included in the byline of Thursday’s Enquirer story on Bezos, were among those given immunity by federal prosecutors in the criminal case against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
It was thought that Pecker “has turned on the president,” suggested a story last month in The Washington Post. This new development suggests “maybe not?” posed New York magazine in its own story Thursday.
When New York magazine asked American Media whether the piece was done to please Trump, the company responded with a statement that the story “underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has long been known for.”
Trump weighed in on the Bezos’ divorce Thursday telling reporters: “I wish him luck. It’s going to be a beauty.”
Sanchez and Whitesell are also divorcing, according to several outlets including People.com. The couple owned a home in Seattle and have socialized with the Bezoses in the past, the New York Post reported.
Sanchez, 49, also a helicopter pilot with her own aerial production firm, was hired to shoot aerial shots for Blue Origin, a private space company Bezos founded in 2000, the Post reported. She served as the initial host on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” and has been a contributor to TV shows including “The View,” “Larry King Live,” “Showbiz Tonight,” and “The Joy Behar Show.”
Sanchez and Whitesell married in 2005 and have two children, but have not filed for divorce as of now, Fox News reported. She has a teenage son from her first marriage to former NFL player Tony Gonzalez.
She and Bezos were seen together in Los Angeles on Sunday, the day of the Golden Globes and at Amazon’s after-party, the Post reported. Bezos made the announcement about the divorce Wednesday because he knew photos of the two would become public, the Post reported.
However, Bezos’ wife, MacKenzie, knew the two were dating, the Post quotes an unnamed person close to Bezos as saying. “The news today was not a surprise to her. Lauren was with Jeff at the Golden Globes because they are dating,” the person said.
TMZ reported Thursday that the Bezoses did not have a prenuptial agreement and plan to file for divorce in Washington. While Washington state divorce law considers all that the couple builds and accrues during their marriage as community property, that doesn’t necessarily mean a 50-50 split of assets – including six homes, according to Business Insider – but the court attempts to split assets (and debts), fair and equitably.
The couple could have devised a postnuptial agreement to do so on their own and likely have a deal meant to not rock Amazon. “It’s unlikely there’s any risk to the company,” said Stuart Slotnick, chairman of the matrimonial department of law firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in New York City. “When you are talking over $100 billion there is enough to go around.”
Even if MacKenzie Bezos should eventually depart with half of Bezos’ wealth, valued at $137 billion atop Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, the Amazon founder would remain among the top four most wealthy.
And, should Amazon’s shares continue to rise, Fortune noted, he could again overtake Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates as the world’s richest man.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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