MIAMI, Florida. Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, recently announced that they are getting divorced. The divorce has led to wide speculation about what this means for Amazon and what this means for the Bezos’s shared wealth. When it comes to divorces involving corporate executives, business owners, and the ultra-wealthy, the rulebook is different than a divorce where there might be less money or assets at stake. Unlike a divorce where both parties earn a salary and maybe own a home together or have a shared retirement plan, wealthier couples tend to carry their wealth in their ownership of stocks, in real estate, and often in their ownership or control of a business. For these couples, negotiating a divorce is very similar to navigating the split of a business partnership. It is incredibly important that these couples have the proper guidance of financial advisors and divorce lawyers along the way.
According to two divorce lawyers writing for the Dallas Business Journal, wealthy couples might be able to take away some important lessons from the Bezos divorce. For example, wealthier couples tend not to take their differences to the court room where the details of their marriage and personal lives will be on the public record. Additionally, wealthier or celebrity couples tend to issue joint statements on social media announcing their decision to split, but they often say nothing else. Anything you say on social media can impact your divorce case should it become contentious.
While there has been much speculation about what the Bezos’s divorce will mean for Amazon, given that courts are likely to see both parties in the marriage as having an equal share in what they currently own in the company, the truth is that with proper counsel and guidance, many experts believe that the divorce won’t have much of an impact on the company’s value as a whole. According to CNN, the couple lives in Washington, where community property (or property acquired during the marriage) is split 50/50. Because Jeff Bezos started Amazon while married, this means his wife might be entitled to half of what the couple owns in the company. Furthermore, CNN reports that the Bezos’s stake in the company is around 16%, which is a major stake, but doesn’t constitute ownership of the whole company. More likely, the divorce will likely involve a discussion of how the shared stock will be transferred or allocated, and will have less to do with how the company is led or controlled.
For wealthy couples divorcing in Florida, however, the rules are different. Florida is not a community property state like Washington, but rather, it is an equitable distribution state. This means that a judge will consider a range of factors when determining how property should be divided. Property and assets will be divided fairly, but they may not always be divided along a 50-50 split.
If you own a business, share ownership of a business with your partner, are a corporate executive with major stock options in a company, it is important to distinguish between the business aspect of your divorce and the emotional one. Ultimately, divorce is a legal and financial proceeding. USAttorneys.com helps couples find solutions. We can assist with a range of complex divorce cases, including divorce cases involving significant wealth.