How Jeff Bezos' new romance could affect his $137 billion divorce from wife of 25 years
Popular divorce lawyer Randy Kessler believes the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce — likely to be 1 of the most expensive ever as he’s the wealthiest man in the world, currently worth about $137 billion — will take several months at a minimum, unless the procedure started a while ago and they have had the opportunity to keep that private.
Bezos released a joint statement along with his novelist wife revealing that they were separating after 25 years of living together which produced four children.
Bezos, who is 54 years old, has fallen love with news anchor Lauren Sanchez, who is 49 years old.
“The valuing of the assets is what often takes time, months at a minimum,” Kessler, past Chairman of ABA Section of Family Law, and Litigation Professor at Emory University, tells PEOPLE. “Then the competing forensic accountants and business valuation experts may meet to try to concur on the values and reconcile and different valuations. Then it will be ripe for mediation.”
Kessler believes Bezos’ romantic relationship with Sanchez which started while the pair were collaborating on several work assignments, may give his wife MacKenzie, some moral leverage. (Sanchez is ending her own thirteen year relationship to high powered Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell. They have 2 children together, and also Sanchez has an older child from a previous relationship.)
“We do not know all of the facts but the marriage may have been over for a long time already,” says Kessler.
“With this amount of wealth, it will not matter as much because the ‘victim’ spouse, will be financially secure with 50 percent or even with one percent of the marital estate. Also, judges are very rarely concerned with who caused the divorce, especially when there is enough money for everyone.”
The only path Kessler sees Sanchez as a concern in affecting the settlement is if MacKenzie is so upset about the finish line of her married life that she cannot bring herself to simply have an amicable 50% split.
“This is understandable and happens often,” Kessler said. “In that case, Mr. Bezos may well agree to give her more than 50 percent.”
In addition, Kessler believes there will be a period of financial analysis in the divorce so that everyone is clear on the depth of the marital estate.
“All parties need to know what is liquid and divisible so each will consider what assets/companies/real estate is wanted. Then they will mediate, compare who wants what and do their best to divide it, starting with a presumption that it should be divided as evenly as possible. Either side would be well within their rights to say, ‘I don’t need 50 percent, as long as I get X (where X may be the thing they want most, like a certain company or property).’”
Kessler speculates that Bezos’s biggest matter could be diluting his power in the business.
“In cases like this, like Tom Cruise, Steve Wynn, etc., where public reputation is valuable, the most important things is to keep it amicable and keep the company, Amazon, and all of the others, in a good light,” says Kessler.
“Consumer confidence is a huge asset that neither wants to destroy. We call that trying not to kill the golden goose.”
Worries over the price of Amazon stock are also the subject to dispute in such high stakes divorce. Not only bad public relations, but fear of the near future, of the company firing key employees because one partner didn't like them, etc., could all play a role in the company stock.
“They will do everything they can to avoid such a dilemma,” Kessler says.