Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott’s divorce made headlines, not only because Bezos is the richest man in the world, but because that fortune would have to be divided up.
Things didn’t quite pan out that way, and even if they had, considering the degree to which Scott has been spending what was still a sizeable fortune, she would have been knocked out of the top spot pretty quickly.
She walked away with four percent of Amazon but showed no interest in getting back into the boardroom, leaving her voting rights with Bezos.
Instead, she turned to philanthropy and pledged to donate half of her fortune to charities.
Unlike others who have made the same promise, however, The Telegraph reports that she’s actually following through.
The same outlet reports that she was worth a cool $53 billion, before she started giving it away.
One philanthropy adviser noted that her total disbursement for 2020 of $6 billion was “one of the biggest annual distributions by a living individual” to working charities.
These donations benefitted women-led charities, food banks, and Black colleges, among other institutions.
Jon Reily, who worked at Amazon in the 90s, and then returned in 2010 to head up its Kindle division, says that her low-key presence coupled with a giving nature is characteristic of Scott.
“She was always somebody behind the scenes; you never saw her,” Reily says. “I would say she’s a down to earth person. [Jeff] was a super geeky guy and she was the kind of person you would think would be married to him.”
“What made the Bezos family socially responsible was her,” Reily says. “Jeff’s a super nice guy. I’m not saying he’s not a great guy, but for the richest person on the planet, he doesn’t give a lot of money away and never has.”
In fact, Bezos has resisted years of pressure to sign up to the Giving Pledge, an initiative started by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010.
Scott, on the other hand, who recently married Dan Jewett, a science teacher at a Seattle private school, not only signed up but ensured that Jewett put his name on the pledge as well.
The Pledge went from 40 members to 220, but as Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out, among pledgers who were billionaires in 2010, only one in six actually reduced their net worth and most had dropped their money into private family foundations.
“MacKenzie Scott has put the billionaire boys’ club to shame,” says Collins now. “She’s dug more deeply and meaningfully than her ex-husband, who only recently moved money to a foundation to address climate change.”
Scott has used her professional skills to manage the funds that she gives away. She and her team research, and compile reports to ensure that the money is going into the rights hands, where it will be used for the right reasons.
“The responses from people who took the calls often included personal stories and tears,” Scott wrote on her personal Medium blog in December 2020.
“These were non-profit veterans from all backgrounds and backstories, talking to us from cars and cabins and COVID-packed houses all over the country – a retired army general, the president of a tribal college recalling her first teaching job on her reservation, a loan fund founder sitting in the makeshift workspace between her washer and dryer from which she had launched her initiative years ago. Their stories and tears invariably made me and my teammates cry.”
In short, she’s spending her money on making the world a better place for people who, unlike Bezos, don’t have a few billion to spend on jetting around, buying R2,5 billion mansions and, I assume, diving into a pool of gold coins at the end of the day.
You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not a fan of the guy.
Thankfully, MacKenzie Scott is around to spend that money where it matters.
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