(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos will retain voting rights and 75 percent of a $143 billion stake in the company when he and MacKenzie Bezos divorce, they said on Thursday, removing uncertainty around what the split would mean for Amazon shares.
FILE PHOTO: 89th Academy Awards – Oscars Vanity Fair Party – Beverly Hills, California, U.S. – 26/02/17 – Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo
The world’s richest couple had announced the impending divorce in a joint Twitter statement in January, causing some to worry that Jeff Bezos could wind up with less voting control over Amazon or that he or MacKenzie would have to liquidate large positions.
“It takes the issue off the table, with less turbulence than you might have expected,” said an investor, whose company owns several million dollars worth of Amazon shares but who asked for anonymity because of a firm policy.
MacKenzie Bezos also said she will give up her interests in the Washington Post, a frequent target of criticism from U.S. President Donald Trump that Jeff Bezos bought in 2013, and the rocket company Blue Origin he founded in 2000.
“Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff,” MacKenzie Bezos said in a Twitter post on Thursday outlining the divorce settlement. It was her first and only tweet from an account created this month.
Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, said in a regulatory filing that 4 percent of its outstanding shares would be registered in MacKenzie Bezos’ name after court approval of the divorce.
Jeff Bezos will keep sole voting authority over the shares unless MacKenzie donates them to a nonprofit or sells them in the open market. The divorce is expected to be finalized in about 90 days, the filing said.
Amazon shares closed down 0.1 percent at $1,818.86.
Jeff Bezos, 55, is seen as essential to Amazon’s meteoric growth and stock price rise since he founded the company as an online bookseller in 1994. He has credited MacKenzie, 48, for her support when he uprooted the young couple to Seattle from New York to launch Amazon.
“When I think about Amazon, and the influence Bezos has on Amazon, I would argue his influence would be the same if he had 51 percent shares outstanding or 1 percent. I think his influence is dictated by his vision for Amazon,” D.A. Davidson analyst Tom Forte said.
STILL EXTREMELY WEALTHY
MacKenzie Bezos will remain extremely wealthy. Her stake in Amazon, valued at roughly $36 billion, is worth more than the market values of nearly 70 percent of the components of the S&P 500. That includes companies like eBay Inc, Allstate Corp and Twitter Inc.
The settlement also suggests that Amazon will be spared the kind of boardroom battle that has plagued other companies whose owners are dealing with family rifts, even though the divorce had jolted the once private Bezos couple into the public spotlight.
Jeff Bezos re-tweeted MacKenzie’s statement and added in a separate post that he was grateful “for her support and for her kindness in this process.”
Liat Sadler, a San Francisco matrimonial lawyer, said the settlement should put investors at ease.
“They’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes to make their breakup as amicable as it seems,” she said. Still, Sadler added, “Without knowing what cash she received, I have no idea how favorable it was to him or not.”
The day they announced their separation on Twitter, the National Enquirer promised to reveal an affair it claimed had ended their marriage, contrary to the couple’s statement that they were on a “long period of loving exploration and trial separation.”
The U.S. tabloid then published alleged photos and intimate text messages between Bezos and his new partner, former television news anchor Lauren Sanchez.
Jeff Bezos in February had said the tabloid was trying to blackmail him unless he said in public that the American supermarket tabloid’s reporting on him was not politically motivated.
The paper’s parent, American Media Inc, has said that reporting on an extramarital relationship involving the world’s richest man was lawful and it would investigate his claims.
American Media and its CEO David Pecker have had close links to Trump, who on Twitter has attacked Bezos, Amazon and the newspaper he owns privately, the Washington Post.
Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru; Writing by Meredith Mazzilli; editing by Anil D’Silva, Nick Zieminski and Bill Berkrot