MacKenzie Bezos to donate half of fortune

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MacKenzie Bezos has promised to give more than half of her fortune to charity as part of the Giving Pledge, the organization said Tuesday. Bezos, whose divorce from the Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos made news earlier this year, was among 19 new signatories announced by the group.

“I have no doubt that tremendous value comes when people act quickly on the impulse to give. No drive has more positive ripple effects than the desire to be of service,” MacKenzie Bezos, a novelist, wrote in a letter dated Friday.

Once the divorce is finalized in July, Bezos will hold a 4% stake in Amazon, with shares worth about $36 billion. Jeff Bezos kept most of the couple’s shares, or about 12% of the company. The value of the company on Tuesday is about $907 billion, meaning that Jeff Bezos, with a $108 billion stake, remains the richest person in the world, just ahead of Bill Gates.

Bezos, who has faced more public pressure to make large philanthropic investments as his wealth and influence have grown, has not joined the list of the wealthy who have committed to the Giving Pledge, started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in 2010. It asks for a commitment by some of the world’s wealthiest people to donate much of their wealth to charity during their lifetimes or in their wills.

“MacKenzie is going to be amazing and thoughtful and effective at philanthropy, and I’m proud of her. Her letter is so beautiful. Go get ’em MacKenzie,” Jeff Bezos said on Twitter on Tuesday.

In 2018, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos pledged $2 billion for a fund to start preschools and help homeless families.

With her pledge Tuesday, MacKenzie Bezos joins a group of 204 of the world’s wealthiest people who have committed to the Giving Pledge, including Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson. This year’s signatories include WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton and his wife, Tegan Acton, and financier David Harding and his wife, Claudia Harding.

Bezos, who has written two novels and been the recipient of an American Book Award, has also given donations to fund cancer and Alzheimer’s research, according to the Giving Pledge’s announcement. In 2013, she founded Bystander Revolution, an anti-bullying organization, where she is executive director.

The Giving Pledge is not a legal contract, according to its website, but it serves as a moral obligation for those who do pledge to give away their fortunes.

“I think part of the reason we are seeing a global culture of giving is that people expect that the wealthiest of the wealthiest should be generous, and I think the expectation is not only that they should be generous but that they should be knowledgeable and personally involved,” Melissa Berman, president and chief executive of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a nonprofit company that helps donors find charities and manage their giving, said Tuesday.

“There is a very strong recognition that the market economy isn’t working well enough for everyone,” Berman said. In the past, the wealthy gave most of their fortunes to charity in their wills, but recently many have begun to feel that they should donate in their lifetime.

“There’s rising awareness of income inequality,” she said.

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