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How Jeff Bezos’ Ex-Wife’s Philanthropy is Changing How We Think About Billionaires


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Back in 2019, after getting her hefty divorse settlement from her former husband, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie Scott made a promise online. The pledge, which was entitled The Giving Pledge, promised to give ‘until the safe is empty.’ The ‘safe,’ which at the time contained about $36 billion dollars, or 4 percent of Amazon’s shares, made her the wealthiest woman in the world for a short period. But she was determined to get rid of that title, and has now dedicated her time to unloading as much of her wealth as she possibly can. Unfortunately for her though, this is easier said than done.

In the past couple of years, Scott’s fortune has grown exponentially— even as she continues to unload it. As of this year, Scott has a fortune of some $60 billion according to Forbes, making her the third wealthiest woman in the world, and the 21st-wealthiest individual overall. Even though the author/philanthropist has given over $8 billion to various charities in just the past year, her fortune continues to grow— an indication that something is seriously wrong with the system as a whole.

MacKenzie Scott pictured with her former husband Jeff Bezos. The couple had an amicable divorce, and both went public with their desire to remain friends after the split. Photo thanks to The New York Times.

What makes Mackenzie Scott so remarkable though isn’t necessarily the scale that she gives at, but rather, her understanding of the problems within the system, and how her fortune has made her culpable within the larger problem. In a recent blog post, Scott acknowledged the growing wealth gap, and the need for those like her to ‘redistribute the wealth.’ “In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others,” She wrote. “Though we still have a lot to learn about how to act on these beliefs without contradicting and subverting them, we can begin by acknowledging that people working to build power from within communities are the agents of change. Their service supports and empowers people who go on to support and empower others.”

Unlike others, Scott’s gifts come with an underlying message: The rich are just TOO rich. She herself is an embodiment of this message. She became one of the wealthiest people overnight because she happened to marry some entrepreneur back in 1993— and 28 years later she is sitting on an unimaginable fortune, one that she can’t possibly spend in her lifetime (even if she used it to go to space like you-know-who). But rather than dive into her pile of gold like Scrooge McDuck, she seems to feel physically uncomfortable about it— almost guilty in a sense.

The couple met in the 90s, and MacKenzie Scott played a part in building her husband’s business venture: Amazon. Pictured: MacKenzie Scott and Jeff Bezos back in 2003. Photo sourced through the Observer.

You see, Scott is rather private about her philanthropy. She doesn’t have a specific charitable organization, and nor does she have any way for organizations to apply for her donations, according to NPR. Instead, she simply announces who she is donating to in a list via her blog post— without mentioning the amount of money that she is giving. It is up to the organizations to reveal how much they received; such as the University of Central Florida, which revealed that her $40 million dollar donation was the largest in the university’s history.

And yet, even that hefty donation, which was just a portion of a far heftier donation made in her name to several Florida schools, has done little to affect Scott’s fortune, which continues to climb. And while she may be generous with her funds, others in her position seem to be less inclined to get rid of their growing wealth, including her ex-husband. Indeed, as Jeff Bezos’ fortune continues to climb, he has donated less than .1% of his wealth, as of 2020.

Unlike her ex-husband though, the Princeton-graduate has constantly acknowledged that her money would be best utilized out of her hands. She understands that there is no reason for her to have more money than the entire country of Iceland, which had a $20 billion GDP in 2020. There simply is no way for her to spend all of that money productively. So instead, she chooses to give her money to those who will be able to spend it productively. She donates to organizations that are focused on racial justice initiatives, such as Race Forward and Borealis Philanthropy, according to The New York Times. She donates to organizations that combat domestic violence and focus on gender equality. And most recently, she donated to schools that have a history of promoting social mobility and educating students from underserved communities, according to USNews. And unlike other philanthropists, Scott does not tell these organizations what to do with her generous gifts. Indeed, instead of telling the masses that they should just eat cake if they don’t have bread, MacKenzie Scott actually provides the cake— and doesn’t tell them how to eat it either.

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