There is “being comfortable”, there is having a feeling of “being well off”, then there is “being rich”, or for a limited few, “super-rich” and then there is being so super-rich the amount of money involved is unimaginable. For those who are fortunate enough to have wealth beyond anybody’s wildest dreams it doesn’t unfortunately protect them from being unhappy - so what happens when they call time on their marriages?
They remain human like the rest of us. And for one such mega rich couple news has flashed this week that the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and his wife have decided to end their 25 year marriage. Not for them is the worry about managing financially once they part because it is reported that the pot they have to share is estimated to be around $137 billion (give or take a couple of billion) making them the world’s richest couple. He is currently the world’s richest person and so it will make this the world’s biggest divorce.
The couple have already put out a very positive and mutually respectful statement about their marriage and future roles so hopefully they may be in a good place to sort out what is likely to be a complex settlement.
But would they divide their assets any differently to us more modest folks and are there different rules for the super-rich?
It’s expected they will divorce in USA. In England they would be subject to the same rules and procedures as everyone else. But there are some different considerations which wouldn’t normally apply to us normal folks. For us an important consideration would be about ensuring that needs were met on divorce – we would have a home and enough money to ensure we could afford reasonable things. But clearly for the Bezos even if their money were shared between their relatives and friends, they would still all have enough to live on for the rest of their lives without even having to worry about somewhere decent to live and paying mortgages and bills. For the mega wealthy meeting their needs is something they don’t worry about. Even if the Bezos' money were split Mr Bezo would still appear towards the top of the world’s richest individuals.
They have been together a long time. The starting point is an equal division. But for the super-rich it is whether that is a fair approach and whether one should get more than the other?
It is reported that Mr Bezos started Amazon in 1994 from his garage. And my word….hasn’t he done well! Could he argue a bigger share because of “a stellar contribution” to their wealth? Did his business acumen and special contribution get them where they are today? Clearly Amazon is a hugely successful international global brand. But the couple’s fortune was achieved after their relationship began and his wife his widely regarded as having supported him and helped the climb to success. It doesn’t just involve Amazon but there are other significant investments and business interests including the Washington Post, and many land and property acquisitions.
Their released joint statement clearly suggests togetherness – not only as parents but in business and indicates an intention to continue to pursue joint ventures. They have obviously worked extremely well together and suggest they will continue to do so. All of this needs careful thought to enable them both to move on successfully.
A real disadvantage for these headline grabbing divorces are just that - they attract the headlines. Many like to snoop into a lifestyle they cannot even imagine. Many super rich choose to settle away from the court for a number of reasons which includes the wish to have some privacy about their affairs and to avoid a court judgement. For the Bezos there could be a real concern about the need to keep a positive PR image and a need to protect their business interests from the negatives of separation.