This Is The Richest Person In The World

Kerry A. DolanForbes Staff Billionaires

As goes Amazon, so goes the fortune of Jeff Bezos. Overall it was a positive year for the e-commerce heavyweight’s stock. That kept its founder and CEO atop Forbes’ 2019 list of the World’s Billionaires for the second year in a row, with an eye-popping $131 billion fortune. That’s $19 billion more than a year ago.

Last year Bezos became the first person to top a Forbes billionaires list with a net worth of $100 billion or more. Though Amazon’s stock has fallen from its peak of $2,012 a share in August, the stock is still worth more than it was a year ago. 

The big question now is whether he can hold onto his vast fortune with the news of his pending divorce. On January 9, he announced on Twitter that he and his wife MacKenzie planned to split up after 25 years of marriage. Bezos made it sound amicable, writing that “we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects.”

But later that day, the National Enquirer revealed that it had uncovered an affair between Jeff Bezos and former TV host Lauren Sanchez, adding that it had photos of the two and tweets they’d sent each other.

Bezos shot back on February 7, tweeting out a post he had written on the website Medium, in which he accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of blackmail and extortion, and shared two emails—one that threatened to publish intimate photos of Bezos and Sanchez, and another that was a list of “proposed terms” of agreement, which included a “public, mutually-agreed upon acknowledgement from the Bezos Parties, released through a mutually-agreeable news outlet, affirming that they have no knowledge of basis for suggesting that AM’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

American Media, which publishes National Enquirer, issued a statement that “American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos,” but added that its board determined that it should investigate the claims made by Bezos. No further information has been released by either Bezos or American Media about the matter since then.

The news that Bezos is getting divorced does raise real questions about whether he’ll maintain control of Amazon—he owns 16% of the company’s shares—and what will happen to his fortune. As Forbes noted in January, Washington State requires divorcing spouses to equitably divide “community property,” including all income generated during a marriage. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement could change the way the assets are handled, but it is not known whether the Bezos couple has such an agreement. It’s unlikely that they have a prenuptial agreement, because the couple married before Bezos founded Amazon, and MacKenzie served as the company’s first accountant.

If MacKenzie Bezos does get half of the couple’s fortune, she would become the richest woman in the world. However, until documentation becomes available detailing how the couple’s assets will be split, we’re keeping the fortune in Jeff’s name.

Bezos is one of just four people who’ve held the title of world’s richest in the past two decades. The others: Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett was number one for one year, Carlos Slim Helu of Mexico held that title for 4 years, and Bill Gates was number one for 12 years between 2001 and 2017. If Gates had not given away $35.8 billion to his foundation, he’d still be number one this year—though just barely.