MacKenzie Bezos just signed The Giving Pledge. Her ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, has refused to sign it for years
It’s been less than two months since MacKenzie Bezos finalized her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and current richest person in the world. The divorce left MacKenzie with about $35 billion in assets, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world. And this week, she signed a letter that pledges to give at least half of that money, or around $17 billion, to charity, either during her lifetime or in her will.
The letter was MacKenzie’s formal commitment to The Giving Pledge, which encourages all the world’s billionaires to pledge half their wealth to charitable causes. And wouldn’t you know it, for nine years, MacKenzie’s ex-husband, Jeff Bezos, has refused to sign the pledge. And then he tweeted his support for MacKenzie, even though he won’t give away more than a tiny bit of his own fortune.
MacKenzie explained her passion for using her immense wealth for the greater good in a letter shared by The Giving Pledge. “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. There are lots of resources each of us can pull from our safes to share with others — time, attention, knowledge, patience, creativity, talent, effort, humor, compassion.”
She concluded her note by pointing out that sometimes, people happen into a huge amount of money — and she plans to do good with her fortune. “We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand. In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.”
Jeff Bezos is no stranger to criticism, being the richest man in the world, and yet having donated only a tiny fraction of his wealth to any kind of charitable cause whatsoever. But it’s pretty telling that the ink on their divorce papers was hardly even dry before Mackenzie Bezos signed The Giving Pledge. Is this a sign that she didn’t agree with the miserly way her ex handled his massive wealth? It’s entirely possible.
Because let’s be real. When you have amassed tens of billions of dollars, there’s no way you’re going to be able to spend it all on yourself in your lifetime. You could give in to whatever whim your heart desires. You could take a fleet of private planes to whatever exotic locale you wanted to every weekend and still not manage to blow through $35 billion in your life, or even $17 billion, for that matter. This pledge? It’s not even that big a deal because these people have more money than the human brain can even fathom.
And signing The Giving Pledge doesn’t even really mean anything. The idea of The Giving Pledge was founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, two of the world’s richest men, and also some of the most philanthropic billionaires on the planet, to encourage other members of the super-rich class to donate more money. But The Giving Pledge has been criticized, because aside from signing a pledge that basically says they promise to make the 50 percent donations, there’s nothing holding people accountable once they commit to the pledge. And while more than 200 people have signed the Pledge, that’s only 7 percent of the world’s billionaires, which is pretty disheartening.
That’s not to say that the people who sign it don’t contribute anything. The point here is that all these billionaires who couldn’t even dream of spending all their money should be on the hook somehow for making the world a better place. As income inequality continues to grow, they’re getting richer and the rest of us are getting poorer. If regulations won’t ever be put in place to help even the playing field, the least these people can do is fork over some of their cash to a good cause or two. Now we’ll see if MacKenzie Bezos will actually follow through.
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