Mackenzie Bezos, became the world’s richest woman when her 2019 divorce from Jeff Bezos was finalized. She fought hard for that money in court but recently has announced plans to give much of it away. She signed the giving pledge, a program initiated by Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010 to encourage the worlds’ richest individuals to donate at least half of their wealth during their lifetimes or in their wills.
About Ms. Bezos’ wealth
Now that her divorce is finalized, Mackenzie Bezos is worth approximately $36.6 billion. She is the fourth richest woman in the world and ranks 22nd on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. This is true despite the fact that as part of the divorce she will no longer retain ownership in several of the couple’s prominent companies. These include The Washington Post, Blue Origin, 75 percent of her Amazon.com stock and voting control of all of her shares.
Her decision to give it away and the causes the may support
Bezos’ decision to sign the giving pledge was announced in late May of 2019. In a letter explaining her actions, she said, “My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time, and effort, and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.” She indicated that she was aware that she had a disproportionate amount of wealth, that some of it was due to highly fortunate circumstances, and that she wished to share it with others.
While any predictions on the future causes she might support are purely speculative, a look at charities she has supported in the past might give a clue about her future in philanthropy. To date, Bezos has donated to a range of causes including support for marriage equality, traditional housing for homeless families, education and scholarships for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, cancer research and the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
Responses to her pledge
Multiple prominent media outlets, including CNN Bloomberg, Variety and CNBC, were quick to cover the news the Mackenzie Bezos signed the giving pledge. On his Twitter account, her former husband responded with support and with the words “I’m proud of her” and “go get ’em, Mackenzie.” The media noted that, although he stands as the world’s richest individual, Jeff Bezos has not signed the pledge himself as of yet. It is easy to think that the actions of his ex-wife are putting pressure on him to do so.
Others who have signed the pledge
To date, there are 204 people from 24 countries who have signed the giving pledge. These include 19 individuals whose participation was announced on the same day that Bezos’ was. Recent signee list features WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton, Paul Sciarra, the co-founder of Pinterest, and Brian Armstrong, the CEO of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase.
Some have questions about the giving pledge
As it turns out, fulfilling the pledge may not be quite as easy as you might think. For example, Warren Buffet has given away more than $30 billion in Berkshire Hathaway shares since he founded the pledge. At the same time, the share price has increased so his net worth is actually greater than it was at the time he began his philanthropic efforts. In addition, some individuals have expressed questions about the validity of the giving pledge, noting that it lacks a legal mechanism for enforcement once it is signed. In addition, they’ve noted that many signers of the pledge have created complicated family trusts which can make it hard to know when the requirements of the pledge have been filled.
At its most basic level, however, the commitment of the pledge represents a moral impulse to contribute to the betterment of the world’s future. Here’s to hoping that more individuals continue to sign it and to follow up by making a financial commitment to others.