Divorce settlement terms between Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, were made public today after she tweeted some of the details. They include her giving him all of her interests in the Washington Post; all of her interests in the spaceflight company Blue Origin; 75% of the couple’s Amazon stock; and voting control of her Amazon shares. She added that she was grateful to be finished with the process and that the couple would remain friends.
— MacKenzie Bezos (@mackenziebezos) April 4, 2019
The separation of the world’s richest couple has become endless fodder for tabloids in recent months after news emerged of a relationship between Jeff Bezos and news anchor Lauren Sanchez, with the story taking a downright surreal turn after the Amazon chief accused the National Enquirer of an attempted extortion scheme. So naturally, news outlets were eager to cover the settlement terms as they broke this afternoon.
But some outlets seem to have gotten things backwards, reporting that MacKenzie Bezos is “receiving” stock or that Jeff Bezos is “giving it up,” as if he’s doing it out of the kindness of his heart. On the contrary: As many commentators have noted, the couple have been together since Amazon’s origins in the early 1990s. MacKenzie Bezos, in fact, played a key role, “handling the finances and writing the checks,” negotiating early contracts, and serving as one of the company’s first employees, as Wired points out.
With Amazon now one of the most powerful companies in history, it’s easy to forget that its position as an unmatched tech colossus was by no means set in stone. It’s hard to imagine the company would be what it is today without MacKenzie Bezos’s input and support. As she herself specified in her tweet, she’s the one doing the giving in this situation, not the other way around.
Maybe it seems nitpicky to call out a few verb choices in headlines, but they are symptoms of a stubbornly persistent Great Man mythology in which male startup founders are credited for their supposed ability to singlehandedly create valuable companies out of thin air. All too often, their spouses are written out of history.