The break-up of one of the world’s wealthiest couples will mean a windfall for charities and nonprofits.
MacKenzie Bezos, who became one of the world’s wealthiest individual women in the wake of her divorce from Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN -2.65% founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, has promised to give away more than half of her fortune, saying she has a “disproportionate amount of money to share.”
MacKenzie Bezos has joined The Giving Pledge, a philanthropic campaign launched in 2010 by Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -3.16% founder Bill Gates, investing guru Berkshire Hathaway /zigman2/quotes/208872451/composite BRK.A +0.39% CEO Warren Buffett, and a few dozen other billionaires.
People who sign The Giving Pledge promise to give more than half their money to charities and philanthropic causes either during their lifetime or in their wills.
Jeff Bezos applauded his former wife’s move on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR -1.90% , writing , “MacKenzie is going to be amazing and thoughtful and effective at philanthropy, and I’m proud of her. Her letter is so beautiful. Go get ’em MacKenzie.”
Bezos hasn’t signed The Giving Pledge. Despite their vast wealth, he and MacKenzie Bezos were relatively quiet about their philanthropic efforts until recently. The couple announced in 2018 that they were setting aside $2 billion to fight homelessness and improve preschool education. Last year, for the first time, the couple topped the list of America’s biggest philanthropists.
They announced their divorce in January 2019 after 25 years of marriage.
MacKenzie Bezos received about 4% of Amazon’s outstanding stock under her divorce agreement and is worth an estimated $35 billion. Her ex-husband Jeff is the world’s wealthiest man with a current estimated net worth of about $131 billion.
In a letter announcing her pledge, MacKenzie Bezos, who has published several novels, drew a parallel between writing and philanthropy, quoting a passage by writer Annie Dillard about how authors shouldn’t hoard their best ideas for the end of their books.
“My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful,” she wrote. “It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
More than 200 people have signed The Giving Pledge, including Facebook /zigman2/quotes/205064656/composite FB -2.05% founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, and Salesforce /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM -2.00% CEO Marc Benioff and his wife Lynne.
The number of female billionaires has been on the rise in recent years, but that trend isn’t necessarily related to women starting their own businesses or earning more money. Indeed many of the world’s richest women either inherited their wealth or married into it. A 2019 study published in American Sociological Review found that a woman’s surest path to joining the 1% is through marriage.
The Giving Pledge announced early Tuesday that MacKenzie Bezos had joined the campaign along with five other individuals and 13 other couples. Other new signers include British investor Jeremy Grantham, the co-founder of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo, and Jane and Robert Toll, the co-founder of the American homebuilding company Toll Brothers /zigman2/quotes/201912487/composite TOL -0.62% .
Amazon shares are up 22.31% so far this year compared to a 9.8% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.78% and 12.75% increase S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -1.05% .