The untold truth of Jeff Bezos' ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos

Have you heard of Jeff Bezos? What about a little company called Amazon? The founder and CEO of the online retail Goliath is the richest man in the world as of 2020, according to Forbes. But the saying goes that behind every great man is a great woman, and in this case that's his former wife MacKenzie Bezos. The two were married for 25 years — from the early days before Amazon even existed — until the pair publicly divorced in 2019.

Throughout the years, MacKenzie has given only a few interviews, despite her husband's notoriety. A self-professed wallflower, she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "I am not a natural for big groups because I am such an introvert." After the Bezos' split, MacKenzie's already almost non-existent online presence shrank even further. But that's easy to do when yo have the right resources — which she does thanks to a jaw-dropping divorce settlement. 

Intrigued? Keep reading for all of the details we could uncover about Jeff Bezos' ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos.

MacKenzie Bezos' true passion

MacKenzie Bezos' is first and foremost an author. She attended Princeton University, where she earned her degree in English, and worked with famous American author Toni Morrison as a research assistant, according to Forbes. After graduation, writing didn't come so easily. "There was so much trial and error and learning to trust yourself," Bezos told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer of the writing process, adding, "I did try to work on it eight hours a day, although there were times when I couldn't." It was only "fear and shame" the propelled Bezos to complete her debut novel, The Testing of Luther Albright. "It took eight years, although there were kids in there with a little maternity leave," she said. "And it did feel like an awfully long time. There were so many different books on the way to this book — I probably did three or four complete rewrites."

After the release in 2005, she got to work on the follow up. Staying consistent, Bezos released her second novel, Traps, in 2013. Ironically, Bezos went with traditional publishing houses — HarperCollins and Knopf Doubleday — for her two novels despite her husband's own publishing companies under the Amazon umbrella. According to The New York Times, "When asked by an interviewer why Ms. Bezos wasn't publishing her books through Amazon's fiction imprints, Mr. Bezos jokingly described his wife as 'the fish that got away.'"

MacKenzie Bezos took the pledge

Throughout her career, MacKenzie Bezos donated to various charitable causes. Per The New York Times, "The Bezoses' charitable contributions have been modest in the past. In 2011, they donated $15 million to their alma mater to create a center to study the brain. The following year, they gave $2.5 million to support a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington" — their home state and location of Amazon's headquarters. A few years later, Bezos used her influence to fight back against bullies. "In 2014, she founded Bystander Revolution, an anti-bullying organization," according to her Forbes profile. The organization consists of tips, testimonials, and video campaigns featuring celebrities like Melissa Joan Hart and Jared Leto, before his uncomfortable interviews later on.

Despite all the hardship that goes along with divorce, Bezos still found the generosity to give back to the world. In 2019, "shortly after she announced the terms of the divorce on Twitter, she signed the Giving Pledge," according to Forbes. This group consists of the wealthiest individuals in the world who have all promised to donate "the majority of their wealth" to charity. Some of the most famous members are Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and his equally impressive wife Melinda Gates. "My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care," Bezos said in her Giving Pledge profile. "But I won't wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty."

The Bezos' were just your everyday, next-door billionaires

In addition to all the writing and life as a billionaire, MacKenzie Bezos is a mom to four children. Residents of "a $10 million mansion in Medina, Wash." since 1999, the Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie also started their family that year. "As they rapidly accumulated wealth, the Bezos family took pains to preserve the trappings of normalcy," per The New York Times. According to author Brad Stone, via the article, "Ms. Bezos often drove the four children to school in a Honda, and would then drop Mr. Bezos at the office." That office, of course, is Amazon headquarters. Can you imagine Jeff getting out at the curb with a briefcase and bag lunch in tow? 

Life at home for billionaire parents must come with many unique challenges. But according to MacKenzie, she said there was plenty of positivity in the mansion. "All of our kids are big laughers, as you would expect with a goofy dad like that," she told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "There is a lot of laughter in our household," she added. MacKenzie also appears to deeply care about providing the most for her children. Speaking with The New York Times, ex-husband Jeff shared one of MacKenzie's go-to mottos: "I would much rather have a kid with nine fingers than a resourceless kid," reported The New York Times.

How MacKenzie Bezos met Jeff Bezos

MacKenzie Bezos met her future husband and later billionaire Jeff Bezos at their place of work. According to Forbes, the pair first crossed paths in 1992 "when they both worked at hedge fund D.E. Shaw" in New York City. She actually interviewed with Jeff and he offered her a job, although she took a job in another department. "But then as luck would have it, [I] got assigned an office right next door to his. And through the walls I would hear him laughing that giant laugh, all day long. And it was totally love at first listen," she revealed in an interview with Charlie Rose.

The pair instantly connected. "Within three months of dating, the two were engaged; they married shortly thereafter at a resort in West Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Bezos was 30; Ms. Bezos was 23," reported The New York Times. The newlyweds packed up everything and moved to Seattle, Wash. the following year in 1994. And what about Jeff's side of the story? "I think my wife is resourceful, smart, brainy, and hot, but I had the good fortune of having seen her résumé before I met her, so I knew exactly what her SATs were," he told Vogue in an interview. But good luck getting those scores. "I'll never tell," he confessed.

Life before the high profile

Long before attending college and marrying a future billionaire, MacKenzie Bezos (née Tuttle) was just a normal kid. She "grew up in San Francisco, a middle child with two siblings" (via Forbes), with a "father who was a financial planner and a mother who cheerfully stayed home to cook meals and decorate the house," according to Vogue. The magazine elaborated that Bezos "was bookish and shy, the kind of girl who would spend hours alone in her bedroom writing elaborate stories." And these elaborate stories were no small task. According to her Amazon author profile, Bezos "wrote her first book when she was six years old, a 142-page chapter book entitled The Book Worm." Sadly, "the sole handwritten copy was reduced to a soup of pulp" after a flood in her childhood home. Bezos elaborated about the incident in an interview with Charlie Rose. "I learned my lesson and I was ... really good at backing up my work in college and I never lost anything again."

According to Forbes, Bezos' parents "sent her to Hotchkiss, the Connecticut boarding school, where she graduated a year early." After, she first "studied at Cambridge, then Princeton, where she majored in English." One of her English professors at Princeton, Jeff Nunokawa, remembers that Bezos "was generally a very poised and a quiet and brilliant presence." Somehow, an English degree led to a job at a hedge fund, where she would meet the man that would completely change her life.

Amazon comments, by MacKenzie Bezos

Though she runs an anti-bullying organization — Bystander Revolution — it doesn't mean MacKenzie Bezos stood quietly by if someone trashed her husband. On Bezos' Amazon reviewer profile, she has only three book reviews. Two are from 2001, well before she published her own books. And a review from 2013 questions the content in the book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone. "Everywhere I can fact check from personal knowledge, I find way too many inaccuracies, and unfortunately that casts doubt over every episode in the book," she said as part of her one-star review. It's hard to question her criticism, when she claimed "I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events." She added, in summary, "Ideally, authors are careful to ensure people know whether what they are reading is history or an entertaining fictionalization."

Though according to Stone "most of the readers and reviewers have been inspired by Amazon's story," he still felt obliged to respond, he said in an interview for The New York Times. "To me, it's not an unflattering account," he added. Stone also penned an article for Bloomberg News, because even though he said, "negative feedback happens all the time" for books — the weight of a review from MacKenzie prompted his defense. "Mrs. Bezos mostly took me to task for what she perceived were subtle biases in my story. I'll own up to that."

The multi-billion dollar divorce

Only nine days into 2019, Jeff Bezos posted on his twitter account a statement signed by him and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. "We have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends," the pair said. Immediately, the world began discussing this unprecedented split. As The New York Times noted, "there has never been a divorce with a couple worth an estimated $137 billion, as Mr. and Ms. Bezos are." What would happen to all that money? The Times also noted that "the Bezoses' primary residence and business are in Washington State, a community property state where any income earned or wealth created during the marriage is to be divided equitably between spouses."

MacKenzie provided insight into the arrangements in her only Twitter post ever. "Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff," she wrote in a statement posted on April 4, 2019. The author shared that she gave Jeff "all of my interests in the Washington Post" along with a big portion of her Amazon stake. But even with her remaining shares, MacKenzie landed a big pay day with the split. "The couple finalized their divorce in July, with MacKenzie getting 25% of his Amazon stock," Forbes reported in October 2019. At the time, the equalled $36.1 billion. Even with that absurd amount of money, some felt it was still too low. "'She should have gotten 50% of the company," since "MacKenzie was an equal partner to Jeff in the early days," claimed Nick Hanauer, an initial investor in Amazon.

MacKenzie Bezos learned a lot about life in college

MacKenzie Bezos obviously wasn't born a multi-billionaire. In fact, this mom and established author worked hard through school, which led her to an ivy league education, and a pivotal role in building one of the biggest companies in the history of the world. Naturally, she faced difficulties along the way. As she explained to Charlie Rosefor all those challenges, whether seemingly big or small, people "can look at them and say 'Ugh, this is a setback,' or you can know, 'This might be an opportunity. Where's this going to take me? What am I going to be grateful for? What's great about this problem?'"

The author talked about her struggles and worries when applying to universities. "I went off to college knowing I was going to have to work a variety of jobs to put myself through school. Maybe 30 hours a week on top of my course load," she revealed to the host. After Princeton accepted the young woman, Bezos remembered thinking, "I hope that I can juggle these jobs and still get the most out of my education." Things fortunately worked out for the best. "What turned out to happen is that the jobs and the juggling were half the education I got," she told Rose, adding that, in the end, putting in the extra work really wasn't "a setback," but rather, "an opportunity."

Home sweet homes

Where would you live if you were one of the richest people in the world? Clearly, MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos reached a point during their long marriage where they could afford to live literally wherever they wanted. But before Amazon became one of the biggest companies in the world, the couple lived in simple accommodations after making the move to Washington state. Back in 1999, Wired reported that "MacKenzie and Jeff, who've lived till now in a one-bedroom rental in downtown Seattle, also recently went shopping for a house, spending a reported $10 million for a rustic mansion alongside Lake Washington in a neighborhood littered with Microsoft millionaires." 

With a shared mansion, MacKenzie still couldn't find the space and peace of mind to work on her main career, writing novels. In 2013, Vogue reported that "to make sure she gets in a full, undistracted day of writing, Bezos rents a one-bedroom apartment close to her family home." Of course, her duties as a mom still came first. The article claimed "when the school day ends, she is the one who picks the kids up and drops them off in her Honda minivan, the quintessential Mom-mobile." 

The famous mentor of MacKenzie Bezos

When choosing colleges to pursue a major in English, MacKenzie Bezos decided on Princeton University, in part for the famous author working on the staff. That was the late Toni Morrison, author of Song of Solomon and Beloved, who went on to win the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature, which made her the first African-American woman to earn the honor, via The New York Times. Speaking about Morrison in an interview with Charlie Rose, Bezos said, "Yes. It was a huge opportunity for me. I had always loved her work and you could take courses with her freshman year." The two worked with each other throughout Bezos' education, and Morrison "ended up being [Bezos'] thesis advisor." Bezos added, "[Morrison] was an amazingly supportive teacher, really good at bringing out the best and guiding you through that process, and very supportive after I left school, too." 

The Nobel laureate also spoke highly of her former student, calling Bezos "one of the best students I've ever had in my creative-writing classes ... really one of the best," reported Vogue. The magazine also revealed that Morrison connected Bezos to Amanda "Binky" Urban, who became her literary agent. Morrison also wrote the cover review for Bezos' first novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, which she called "a rarity: a sophisticated novel that breaks and swells the heart" (via The New York Times). 

How exactly did MacKenzie Bezos help create Amazon?

Yes, Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon, but his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos played a big part in the development back when the company was a humble startup. According to The New York Times, "She was an integral part of its origin story, driving to Seattle in 1994 while Mr. Bezos sat in the passenger seat, working on the nascent company's business plan," The outlet also claimed she was the company's first accountant, and via an excerpt Brad Stone's The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, also noted that "she helped brainstorm names for the company and even shipped early orders through UPS."

In what Wired described as "delicious irony," MacKenzie and Jeff started building Amazon inside of a Barnes & Noble. You remember, that giant brick-and-mortar book retailer that was nearly driven out of existence by Amazon? Anyway, according to the tech outlet, "[Barnes & Noble] also served as a venue for business meetings with outsiders. MacKenzie Bezos even negotiated the company's first freight contracts there." An early employee at Amazon, Tod Nelson, told Forbes that MacKenzie played a vital role in the start of the e-commerce platform. "No one really had job titles ... so she did just about everything," he claimed.

Billions on top of billions in net worth

MacKenzie Bezos didn't marry a billionaire — she helped make one out of Jeff Bezos. She played an integral part in the early days of Amazon, became a mother of four, and published two novels along the way. When the pair divorced, "she received 4% of the Amazon stake" so according to Forbes, MacKenzie was worth around $40 billion as of April 2020. Although she "sold, gifted or transferred about $350 million worth of Amazon shares, equivalent to 1% of her Amazon stock," Forbes reported, she is still one of the wealthiest women in the world.

What would you do with all that money? As the Bezoses' wealth accumulated, she and Jeff found creative ways to spend some money for quality fun time with the whole family. As Wired revealed, by 1999 life was already starting to get good. "Jeff and MacKenzie's Christmas gift to everyone a year ago was laser-tag guns and vests, which, combined with the walkie-talkies his parents offered up, served as weapons in a nighttime game of laser-enhanced Capture the Flag on Amelia Island," the enchanting spot off the Florida coast. And according to Jeff's mother, he had an unfair advantage with "a pair of night-vision goggles MacKenzie had given him."

Okay, admittedly laster tag doesn't really put into perspective exactly how well-off the Bezos truly are, so how's this? In 2017 and 2018, Jeff reportedly earned $8,961,187 — per hour