When Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott divorced in 2019 after Amazon founder disclosed he was having an affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, Scott away the biggest settlement ever awarded in a marital split: $38 billion in Amazon stock. The end of 25-year marriage immediately made Scott the world’s fourth – richest woman. ‘What would she do with all the money?’
Now we know. Quietly, stealthily, and without any publicity (well, until last week, when the news broke), MacKenzie has completely upended the philanthropic world with some of the biggest charitable gifts ever given by a single person.
As New York Times wrote, ‘They came like gifts from a Secret Santa, $30 million here, $40 million there, all to higher education, but not to the elite universities that usually hog all the attention. These donations went to colleges and universities that many people have never heard of, and that tended to serve regional, minority, and lower – income students’.
‘I was stunned’, Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie Vie A&M University, a historically Black college in Prairie View Texas, told the Times after she learned that Scott was giving it $50 million, the biggest gift the university had ever received. She told the paper she thought she had misheard, and the caller had to repeat the number: ‘five-zero’.
In a Medium post this month, Scott, 50, wrote that the pandemic had accelerated her charitable giving for 2020 and that she and a group of advisers started meeting in July to identify schools and other financial strapped organizations to which they could quickly offer help. One contributing factor: The pandemic has actually boosted the stock market and the share prices of companies like Amazon that have benefited from it.
‘This pandemic has been a wrecking bell in the lives of Americans already struggling’, she wrote. ‘Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty. Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires’.
Scott wrote that she had donated $4.1 billion in the past six months, doing so to 384 recipients that she and her advisers had identified as serving ‘communities facing high projected food insecurity, high measures of racial inequity, high local poverty rates, and low access to philanthropic capital’. It’s been estimated that, in total, Scott gave away $6 billion in 2020, which experts say may be the most ever given directly to charities in a single year by a living donor.
It’s quite a contrast to her ex-husband, the 56-year-old Bezos, who in the past few years has brought mansion in Washington, D.C., and Beverly Hills, as well a multi – apartment complex on Manhattan’s Central Park South and a 300,000 – acre property in Texas; partied in St-Tropez and St.Bartz with Sanchez; showed off his newly buff body in $260 Vilebrequin swim shorts that quickly became an Internet sensation; and has methodically squeezed ever last dollar out of his Amazon employees while fighting their efforts to unionize.
And as Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, wrote at CommonDreams, Scott – a relative newcomer on the billionaire – giving scene – has quickly made herself the role model for others to follow. ‘She’s now made two bold moves, putting to shame the other 650 U.S. billionaires who haven’t figured out comparable ways to boldly share’, he wrote.
Here is everything we known about MacKenzie Scott and her journey to becoming one of the world’s most notable philanthropists.
She Was There At The Very Beginning
Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott met in 1992, when they were both at the New York hedge fund D.E. Shaw, working out of adjoining offices, and then married a year later. In 1994, they quit their jobs and moved to Seattle to start Amazon (then conceived as an online bookseller) from the garage of their new home. ‘I picked books as the first, best product to sell online after making a list of, like, 20 different products’, Bezos told an interviewer in 1997. On the way to Washington, MacKenzie drove while Jeff worked on their business plan, tapping it out on his laptop. According to a 1999 Wired interview, MacKenzie negotiated Amazon’s first freight contracts, doing so while working out of a Starbucks cafe in a local Barnes & Nobles.
She Is A Published Author
Scott, writing as MacKenzie Bezos, is the author of two well – regarded novels: The Testing of Luther Albright, which was named a Lod Angeles Times ‘book of the year’ in 2005, and Traps, published eight years later, which Kirkus Reviews called a ‘cleverly orchestrated, cool – toned’ tale. In 2013, Scott told Vogue that it had taken 10 years and ‘a lot of tears’ to finish her first novel. ‘Granted, she was doing other things during that time’, added her interviewer Rebecca Johnson, ‘moving cross – country, giving birth to four children (three boys and a girl, ranging in age from seven to twelve), helping her husband start a fledgling business called Amazon.com’.
She Had Good Mentors
Scott, who grew up in San Francisco – the daughter of a financial planner and a stay – at – home mother and local philanthropist – attended Hotchkiss and then Princeton, a school she later said she chose partly for the chance to study fiction under the writer Toni Morrison, who once called Scott ‘one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative writing classes…really one of the best’. It was Morrison who connected Scott with Amanda ‘Binky’ Urban, the famed literary agent, at the beginning of her writing career.
The Split With Bezos Was Apparently AN Amicable One
They didn’t quite it a ‘conscious uncoupling’, but Bezos and Scott pulled off their divorce without public acrimony: a considerable feat given its frenzied tabloid coverage. (In February of 2019, Bezos accused the National Enquirer of trying to exhort him by threatening t publish compromising photos that Bezos had texted to Sanchez). In a tweet, Jeff said he and MacKenzie had decided to ‘continue our shared lives as friends’: ‘We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends. We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends. – – Jeff Bezos/Twitter’
A few months later, MacKenzie posted a tweet of her own: ‘Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff with support from each other and everyone who reached out to us in kindness, and looking forward to next phase as co-parents and friends. Happy to be giving him all of my interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin, and 75% of our Amazon stock plus voting control of my shares to support his continued contribution with the teams of these incredible companies. Excited about my own plans. Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next’ – MacKenzie Scott/Twitter
She Quickly Pledged To Give Away Her Fortune
Just months after her divorce, Scott on to the Giving Pledge, a commitment to give away at least half of one’s money. Led by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Giving Pledge has been described as ‘today’s Andrew Carnegie and John D.Rockefeller’, and its purpose is to remake global philanthropy by encouraging earlier, bigger, and more public giving, particularly from the new generation of tech billionaires. (Notably, the couple did not sign the pledge while married, and Bezos himself has not done so since the divorce, though he and MacKenzie did make some notable donations while they were together). ‘We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand. In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share’, Scott said in a letter announcing commitment. ‘My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care’.
Who Has Gotten The Money So Far?
Scott made gifts to more than a dozen historically Black colleges and universities, as well as community and technical colleges and school serving Native Americans, women, urban, and rural students. Among the groups she singled out in her Medium post and urged other to donate to were the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, the Chicago Community Loan Fund, Feeding America, the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund, and HBCUs ranging from Dillard University to Mississippi’s Tougaloo College.
She’s Not Done Yet
According to Forbes, Scott is now the third – richest woman in the world, just behind L’Oréal heir Francoise Bettencourt Meyers and Walmart heir Alice Walton. The magazine estimates her current net worth at $55.1 billion (after her most recent donations), which means Scott has a lot more charitable giving in her future is she sticks to her pledge to give at least half her fortune away. And it seems like she will: A Scott wrote on Medium in July, she is determined ‘to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty’. She added: ‘This works is ongoing and will last for years.