When Amazon’s Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced their intent to divorce in January of 2019, few expected the couple would agree to a divorce settlement only three months later. Unlike other high-profile, affluent divorces, the Bezos split seemed quite amicable, even though it appears that Jeff ended up with a larger share of the couple’s estate. Do you think MacKenzie didn’t get her fair share? In divorce, a fair deal usually doesn’t equate to a 50-50 division of property.
While most details of the Bezos’ divorce settlement haven’t been made public, the Bezos-owned Washington Post reports that Jeff retained 75 percent of the couple’s Amazon shares and related voting rights, while MacKenzie waived her voting rights and was awarded 4 percent of the company’s outstanding common stock as separate property. She also gave up rights to the couple’s stake in the Washington Post and Jeff’s space travel company Blue Origin.
Why we think MacKenzie Bezos got a fair deal in her divorce
Like Texas, the state of Washington, where the couple resides, is a community property state. That means, barring any pre-marital, post-marital, shareholder, corporate or other agreement that include different arrangements, the court’s goal is to effectuate a divorce settlement with a just and equitable division of a couple’s community property.
Yet, MacKenzie appears to have accepted much less. Why? Most likely, she agreed to the deal because she felt it was a fair deal for her. Her divorce settlement made her one of the wealthiest women in the world, so there was no need to be greedy. Plus, the settlement leaves the company in the control of her children’s father, which we assume she expects will benefit them in the future.
The Bezos’ big, quick, amicable divorce also benefits the couple in other ways. Since Jeff and MacKenzie were able to agree to terms so quickly, they can move forward with their lives today, instead of toiling through the court system and paying divorce attorney fees for years. Aside from rumors of Jeff’s infidelity shortly before the couple filed for divorce, the quick dissolution of the Bezos’ marriage also minimized any fodder that could be aired in the press.
What Texans can learn from the Bezos’ divorce
In Tarrant County, which has one of the highest divorce rates in the country, the assets in the average divorce don’t come anywhere near the Bezos estate. However, at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth, we do see many divorces where either the husband or wife owns a business. Like the Bezos’ divorce, the other spouse usually expects to get some value out of that business.
The trouble is that the two parties rarely agree on the value of that business. Each party can hire an expert to formulate a valuation for the business, but different experts often calculate business valuations in different ways.
While this exercise is essential during a divorce involving a family business, we encourage clients to focus on securing a settlement that best meets their needs, while being fair to both parties. In other words, learn from MacKenzie Bezos—don’t get greedy. If you push for too much, your divorce could end up dragging out and cost you more in legal fees, not to mention emotional duress.
You may also end up with a less desirable settlement. We’ve had cases where the business owner deliberately did things to devalue the business because the other party got greedy instead of focusing on what they really needed—enough money to live comfortably, a residence that is paid for outright, funds for the children’s schooling, etc. An experienced and reputable divorce attorney can help you weigh your options and home in on a settlement that is appropriate for your circumstances.
Need help securing a fair and equitable divorce settlement in Tarrant County?
The experienced family law attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth are here to help. To schedule a confidential consultation with Justin Sisemore, call the firm at 817.336.4444 or visit our Contact page to schedule online.