It’s official. After 25 years of marriage, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie have agreed on how they’ll split up their commonly owned shares of Amazon stock. MacKenzie will keep one-fourth of them — worth roughly $35 billion — but will still let her ex-husband use the voting power linked to her stake.
The information was made available in an SEC filing, though most investors and journalists were first made aware of it via Twitter, where MacKenzie briefly explained the agreement on Thursday. She’ll also be giving Jeff her stakes in Blue Origin and the Washington Post.
The decision alleviates growing concerns that a contested division of assets could wrestle control of the company away from its CEO, potentially disrupting Bezos’ long-term vision for the e-commerce giant that sometimes inspires short-term frustration.
MacKenzie and Jeff met while working for the same hedge fund, D.E. Shaw, in 1992. A year later the two were married, and a year after that the couple were moving to Seattle. Jeff wrote Amazon’s business plan in the car while MacKenzie drove.
The rest, of course, is history. Amazon.com has become synonymous with “e-commerce,” largely because it does more of it than almost any outfit. Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) technically does more, but Alibaba is only a middleman. Amazon.com sells goods out of its own inventory as well as that of third parties.
Amazon’s history also includes becoming the second company in history to reach a market cap of $1 trillion, reaching that milestone in September just a few weeks after Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) did the same.
By that time Jeff Bezos had already become the richest man in the world, though wild wealth still wasn’t enough to sustain a happy marriage. Just a few months later, and within hours of announcing his impending divorce with MacKenzie, revelations of Bezos’ affair with news anchor Lauren Sanchez surfaced. The two, as it turns out, had already been dating for eight months.
Bolstering the scandalous nature of the fair: Sanchez’s husband Patrick Whitesell was a friend of Jeff Bezos.
Division of Assets, Voting Power With AMZN Stock
Amazon stock holders have been worried that the sheer depth of the saga could at best prove distracting to the e-commerce company’s CEO, and at worst, disruptive to the company.
Like so many other organization, Amazon.com and its CEO are tightly linked. Their drive and vision are an important part of the corporate culture. Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and its chief Elon Musk are one example. Mark Zuckerberg and his company Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) are another.
Bezos’ role as the chief, face and ethos of Amazon, however, remain intact. He will still own roughly 12% of the company’s total shares even after signing one-fourth of the couple’s jointly-owned stake over to MacKenzie, and he will still be able to use her voting rights unless she sells shares or gives them away.
While technically a minority stake, Jeff is still the company’s biggest shareholder. Serving as CEO also adds some influence in the boardroom, as does the market’s respect for the behemoth he’s created.
Jeff Bezos will also still be the world’s richest man after the splitting of assets is completed.
MacKenzie Bezos, however, won’t be doing too badly herself. She’ll become the world’s fourth-richest woman once the divorce decree is finalized. The public documents regarding Amazon and other co-owned companies also don’t make any mention of cash Jeff may be passing along to MacKenzie as part of the settlement.
Looking Ahead for Amazon
While no divorce is clean or easy, given the billion-dollar fortunes at stake and the fact that there was no prenuptial agreement, this one was much less messy than it could have been. Both parties fared well.
So did shareholders.
The market was preparing for the worst, including a loss of clear control of the company to an ex-spouse that had been thrust into a less-than-flattering spotlight. The outcome turned out to be amazingly amicable, and should allow Bezos and Amazon to continue doing ‘business as usual.’
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can learn more about James at his site, jamesbrumley.com, or follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.
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