Everyone knows about Amazon. The internet retailer giant made waves across the world when it first started and now, no one can touch it. Any competition that even starts to come close is destroyed and the business is worth billions. One thing that not as many people would know is that Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, recently got divorced this year from his wife, MacKenzie Bezos. It gets even more interesting, too! She has promised to donate half of her fortune to charity and joins billionaires such as investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder Bill Gates in the Giving Pledge.
The Giving Pledge was first created by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. The idea behind it is that the richest men and women promise to give away half or more of their wealth to a charitable cause. Ms Bezos is currently estimated to be worth almost $37bn (£29bn), which means she will have to donate about $18.5bn. In the settlement from the divorce she acquired 4% of the company, which while it may not sound like a lot, it is in fact an incredibly large amount of money!
Bezos said in a statement that she has been given a disproportionate amount of money in life and she has been extremely fortunate. She goes on to say that her attitude towards philanthropy won’t change any time in the future and she will continue to give. The pledge in question, The Giving Pledge has currently been signed by a 204 families, couples, and people from a whopping 23 different countries. Some of the first people to sign the pledge back in 2010 were former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN founder Ted Turner, as well as entertainment executive Barry Diller. Despite being founded nine years ago, the pledge hasn’t lost traction whatsoever with plenty of people still willing to sign it. This year, there has been pledges from hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones; Jeremy Grantham, who is co-founder of US investment firm GMO; and Emirati businessman Sheikh Mohammed bin Musallam bin Ham Al Ameri. There’s no shortage of philanthropists willing to give back some of their fortune.
Many people will probably be wondering what the pledge actually means. While it isn’t a legally binding contract, it is a public announcement of a promise to give money to charity. If someone were to go back on this promise, it would open them up to ridicule and most likely significant backlash from the public. According to the pledges website, the aim is to raise awareness. It wants more people to talk about giving in an open way and create an atmosphere that can draw more people into philanthropy.
Another example is Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who joined the list in 2015. The billionaire couple promised to give away 99% of their shares in the company to good causes, namely the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, in an attempt to make the world a better place for their daughter Max to grow up in. While the shares, which are worth more than £60bn, will not be donated to charity immediately, they will be donated gradually over the course of the couple’s lives.
For now, Mr Bezos is not one of the signatories to the Giving Pledge. That said, he has still donated some money to charitable causes. Last year, he put $2bn into a fund he established himself to help the homeless and set up a new network of schools. While this is benefiting those in need, it did also receive quite a bit of backlash from some people as Bezos has been accused of underpaying his staff while he himself is estimated (by Bloomberg) to have a net worth of about $114bn. At least one half of the Bezos ex-couple are willing to give significantly, thanks to Ms. Bezos!