Divorce News Puts Unusual Spotlight on MacKenzie Bezos

It's not clear what's next for the novelist, who keeps a relatively low profile
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2019 1:58 PM CST
Divorce News Puts Unusual Spotlight on MacKenzie Bezos
In this March 4, 2018, file photo, Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

She is an award-winning 48-year-old novelist, though better known to the world as the wife of Jeff Bezos. News of the couple's divorce has focused renewed attention on MacKenzie Bezos, who has generally kept a much lower profile than her in-the-public-eye husband. Some highlights from coverage:

  • Profile: The New York Times has a nuts-and-bolts profile, recounting how the aspiring writer took a job at a New York City hedge fund in the 1990s to pay the bills while she worked on her novels. There she met her future husband, and wound up driving across the country with him to Seattle—as legend has it, with him in the passenger seat, working on the business model for Amazon.
  • The support: "They gave up a really comfortable lifestyle and successful careers to move across the country and start something on the internet,” according to Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. “The only reason [Jeff] was able to do that is because he had an extremely supportive spouse. It was an incredible risk and one that they both took on jointly.”

  • Scathing: Regarding Stone's 2013 book above, MacKenzie herself left a famous one-star review of it on Amazon, slamming it for inaccuracies. Read the review here.
  • Key role: A story at Wired makes the case that MacKenzie played a much larger role in the early success of Amazon than is generally regarded. It's "part of a wider pattern of how the stories of tech companies get told, which erases the many individuals who help to build them in favor of highlighting the 'lone genius' at the helm," writes Louise Matsakis. "Many of the people who fade to the background have been women." Among other things, MacKenzie was essentially the company's first accountant. As the company grew, she played less of a role in day-to-day operations.
  • The writing: Her novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, won the American Book Award in 2006. She published another, Traps, in 2013. Novelist Toni Morrison called MacKenzie "one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative writing classes.” The Times notes that publishing execs are salivating at the idea of a memoir. Perhaps sold through independent booksellers?
  • She already is: News of the divorce has prompted speculation that MacKenzie will become the world's richest woman. That strikes Matt Levine of Bloomberg as an odd way of viewing marriage, not to mention community property laws. "I would have thought the more straightforward analysis is that she is the world’s richest woman now, because she is a member of a married couple that has more money than any other single person or married couple on the planet."
  • Effect on Amazon: At Forbes, Brittain Ladd calculates that MacKenzie could control 8% of Amazon stock after the divorce. He lays out "Machiavellian" ways she could theoretically wreak havoc on the company but thinks them all unlikely. "I do not envision MacKenzie doing anything other than what she has always done—exude confidence and be a professional."
(President Trump had some things to say about the divorce.)

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