Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world – pending his divorce

Jeff Bezos. Photo: Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/PA Images
Jeff Bezos. Photo: Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA/PA Images

Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos is still the richest person in the world, with a fortune of $131bn – but his impending divorce could change that.

The CEO has topped Forbes’ list of the World’s Billionaires for the second year in a row, after becoming the first person to do so with a net worth of over $100bn in 2018.

Overall, it was a positive year for Amazon’s stock, which peaked at $2,021 a share in August before falling slightly, but still remains higher than it was a year ago. This has helped its founder’s fortune to rise $19m in the past 12 months.

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But news of Bezos’ impending divorce has raised questions about what will happen to that fortune.

The multi-billionaire announced via Twitter on 9 January that he and wife MacKenzie had separated. He implied the split was amicable and wrote that the pair “see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends [and] partners in ventures and projects.”

However, that same day the National Enquirer revealed Bezos had been having an affair with former TV host Lauren Sanchez, saying it had images of the two and access to private messages they had sent each other on Twitter.

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Washington state requires divorcing spouses to equally divide “community” property, which includes all income generated during the marriage. Some have suggested it is unlikely the couple signed a pre-nuptial agreement as they married several years before Bezos founded Amazon.

Equal division of assets would make MacKenzie, who served as the company’s first accountant, the richest woman in the world. However, there is not yet any documentation detailing how the assets will be split.

Bezos has accused the National Enquirer of blackmail and extortion, and shared emails from the publication that seemingly threatened to publish intimate photos of Bezos with Sanchez if he did not agree to a set of “proposed terms.”

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Bezos is one of four people who have held the title of world’s richest person in the last two decades. If not for a $35.8bn donation to his foundation, Bill Gates, who held the title from 2001 to 2017, would have continued to top the list for the past two years.