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Jeff Bezos' wife could become world's richest woman after divorce

Business Insider logo Business Insider 1/9/2019 Katie Warren
Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie Bezos© AP Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie Bezos

Billionaire couple Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos are getting divorced after 25 years of marriage, sparking immediate speculation as to how their massive fortune will be divided.

The Amazon CEO is worth $137 billion, making him the richest man in the world. But depending on how the couple end up splitting their assets, he could be toppled from that position and MacKenzie Bezos could gain the title of world's richest woman.

Jeff and MacKenzie live in Washington state, one of nine states where everything acquired throughout the marriage — from real estate to income — is considered joint property. That means their assets could be split 50-50, unlike in 41 other states, where a marital estate is made up of assets acquired under each spouse's name and isn't considered joint property unless both names are on the deed.

Jeff founded Amazon after he and MacKenzie got married, which means MacKenzie could have a right to half of her husband's Amazon fortune.

If MacKenzie walked away from the divorce settlement with exactly half of Jeff's fortune, that would make her worth an estimated $68.5 billion — the richest woman in the world by nearly $23 billion.

The richest woman is Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, who controls 33% of L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics-maker, and is worth $45.6 billion, according to Bloomberg. According to Forbes, however, Meyers is worth $44.7 billion, putting her slightly behind Walmart heiress Alice Walton, who is worth $44.8 billion.

Either way, MacKenzie Bezos' net worth could surpass both of theirs after the divorce.

Related video: Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie to divorce (provided by Fox Business)

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"In my view, the parties probably have a very complicated asset structure," Michael Stutman, a New York divorce attorney, told Business Insider. "I am sure that there are a number of investment vehicles that have been already set up for their children and possibly other parties. While the two of them will be in control of a large portion of their financial empire, it's certainly not clear that it will be in the full amount that has been publicly cited."

In addition to their sprawling Washington estate, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos own several other properties throughout the US, including two Beverly Hills mansions bought for a combined $37.4 million, a 30,000-acre Texas ranch, the largest home in Washington, DC, and a set of four Manhattan condos in a historic building overlooking Central Park.

It's unknown whether the couple ever signed a prenuptial agreement. But it's possible they signed a postnuptial agreement after Amazon took off — MacKenzie was one of Amazon's earliest employees — which is similar to a prenup, but takes place after a couple has married.

"If there was a prenuptial agreement, as long as that prenup is valid, its provisions would be followed, even if a different result was obtained than by following the laws of Washington state," Stutman said. "Similarly, if there was a postnuptial agreement, it too would be followed as long as it is valid."

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