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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Explained: How did MacKenzie Scott become the richest woman in the world?

Who is MacKenzie Scott and how did she become a billionaire?

Written by Rahel Philipose , Edited by Explained Desk | Margao | Updated: September 4, 2020 9:40:46 am
MacKenzie Scott, former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos overtook L’Oreal SA heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers for the first time to become the world’s 12th richest person.(Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

With a net worth of $66.4 billion, novelist MacKenzie Scott became the world’s richest woman on Monday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The 50-year-old former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos overtook L’Oreal SA heiress Francoise Bettencourt Meyers for the first time to become the world’s 12th richest person.

Last year, a month after her divorce from Bezos, the billionaire author and philanthropist signed the Giving Pledge — a campaign founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet — and vowed to donate at least half of her personal wealth to philanthropic causes during her lifetime.

But, who is MacKenzie Scott and how did she become a billionaire?

Who is MacKenzie Scott?

MacKenzie Scott is an American novelist and philanthropist who was born and raised in San Francisco, California. She graduated from the prestigious US ivy league Princeton University, with a bachelor’s degree in English, in 1992.

She famously studied creative writing under late Pulitzer-prize winning author Toni Morrison, who has said on record that Scott was “one of the best students” she has ever had. Scott published two novels — The Testing of Luther Albright in 2005 and Traps in 2013. She won an American Book Award in 2006.

Soon after graduating from college, Scott joined DE Shaw, a hedge fund in New York, where she worked for Jeff Bezos as a research associate. The couple soon started dating, and got married the next year, in 1993.

In 1994, Bezos left DE Shaw and founded Amazon, which was then merely an online bookstore started from his garage. Scott joined him as the company’s first employee. In their 25-year marriage, the couple raised four children together. In 2019, Bezos and Scott revealed that they were parting ways.

After the couple announced their separation, Bezos was embroiled in a much-talked-about scandal involving leaked intimate photographs and text messages, which were allegedly shared between him and former news anchor Lauren Sanchez, while he was married to Scott.

How did MacKenzie Scott become the wealthiest women?

Early last year, Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott announced the dissolution of their 25-year marriage. The couple’s divorce settlement has been ranked amongst the most expensive of all time.

As part of the settlement, Scott (then MacKenzie Bezos) received 25 per cent of the couple’s Amazon stock, which gave her a 4 per cent stake in the company — amounting to around $38 billion. Following the divorce deal, Scott’s name first emerged in the world’s richest people list.

Bezos, who is currently the world’s richest man, retained voting control over Scott’s shares and also retained his interest in the Washington Post, the American daily newspaper he acquired in 2013; as well as in Blue Origin, an aerospace company he founded in 2000.

In January, Scott had sold, gifted or transferred around 1 per cent of her Amazon stock, worth approximately $350 million, according to a report by Forbes. The reduction of more than 200,000 shares was registered in a filing with the US’ Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

According to a Bloomberg report, Bezos’ personal wealth rose to $200 billion on Wednesday as Amazon’s shares skyrocketed to record levels amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. This simultaneously made Scott the world’s richest woman as her own net worth climbed to $66.4 billion.

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MacKenzie Scott philanthropic work

In a blog post shared earlier this year, Scott made two big revelations — she announced that she was officially dropping ‘Bezos’ as her last name, and she also revealed that she had donated about $1.7 billion to a host of causes, including racial equity, climate change and public health.

“There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others,” her blog post, shared on Medium, read.

“Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror. Life will never stop finding fresh ways to expose inequities in our systems; or waking us up to the fact that a civilization this imbalanced is not only unjust, but also unstable,” she added. “What fills me with hope is the thought of what will come if each of us reflects on what we can offer.”

As part of her pledge to donate a majority of her wealth to give back to society, she shared a detailed breakup of how she divided the $1.7 billion between various causes:

Total given to date:

Racial Equity: $ 586,700,000

LGBTQ+ Equity: $ 46,000,000

Gender Equity: $ 133,000,000

Economic Mobility: $ 399,500,000

Empathy & Bridging Divides: $ 55,000,000

Functional Democracy: $ 72,000,000

Public Health: $ 128,300,000

Global Development: $ 130,000,000

Climate Change: $ 125,000,000

Meanwhile, her ex-husband Jeff Bezos has been widely criticised for constantly falling short when it comes to charitable work. Out of the top five richest Americans, only Bezos has not signed the Giving Pledge as yet.

Scott has made considerable donations to charities over the years. Notably, she founded an anti-bullying organisation called Bystander Revolution in 2014.

Who are the other women billionaires on the list?

Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, the sole heiress of the L’Oréal beauty empire, closely follows Scott on the list, with a net worth of $66.3 billion. Meanwhile, Alice Walton, the daughter of Walmart founder Sam Walton, ranks 16th with $60.4 billion.

The list also features Julia Koch, who along with her three children, inherited a 42% stake in her late husband David Koch’s chemical manufacturing company Koch Industries after his death.

The granddaughter of Frank C Mars, the founder of the American candy company Mars Incorporated, Jacqueline Mars ranks 24th on the list, with a net worth of $42.6 billion.

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