As Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announce their divorce on Twitter, following a 25 year marriage, during which Jeff Bezos launched e-commerce giant ‘Amazon’, talks turn to the division of assets in what is likely to be one of the highest value divorces on record.
The couple married in 1993, prior to the launch of Amazon, without a pre-nuptial agreement in place. During the marriage and as Amazon has grown to the global giant it is today, Jeff Bezos’ wealth has reached a staggering $140 billion. Whilst this is an American divorce and American courts are likely to decide the outcome, it is interesting to consider what would the court’s approach be in this country.
Under English Law, Pre Nuptial Agreements (PNA) can be valid under certain circumstances and provided that a strict set of criteria are met, it is unlikely that a PNA made in 1993 could have foreseen such a significant effect that the internet, and internet retailing could have had. It is questionable therefore, subject to the terms of the PNA, whether a court would have upheld such an agreement.
As a result, Mrs Bezos could be able to claim a significant percentage of the family assets, which would include Mr Bezos’ interest in Amazon which is approximately 16%
But, what would have happened if the company had been set up before the marriage?
If the couple had married after Mr Bezos launched Amazon and a PNA had been put in place would Mrs Bezos still have been able to make a claim against her husband’s interest in Amazon?
In England and Wales, even when a PNA is in place, the Courts have the authority to decide whether it is valid, and even if it is, how far it goes in relation to the division of assets. The Court can also deal with assets if the PNA is silent on certain aspects. In the event the PNA included a clause that Mr Bezos retained all interest in his company on the event of a divorce, the court could have a wide discretion to divide other matrimonial assets how it saw fit to achieve fairness.
The Bezos’, in addition to the monetary wealth, are likely to have entered into a number of financial transactions together, including the purchase of significant amounts of land and property, all of which will be subject to division in the financial settlement.
Do you have questions regarding financial settlement agreements in divorce? Our Family solicitor Nicholas Clough can answer any questions you may have and can be contacted on 0161 615 5554, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting our Altrincham office.