MacKenzie Bezos, 49 year old former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has promised to give half of her wealth of $36.6bn (£28.4bn) to charity. Mackenzie, who is a novelist and founder of anti-bullying group, Bystander Revolution, became one of the richest woman in the world after receiving 25% of Jeff Bezos’ shares in Amazon, following her divorce from him being finalized in April.
Mackenzie has not yet said which causes she intends to donate to. She made the promise in a letter to the Giving Pledge, a philanthropic initiative created by investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, on 25 May. The philanthropist says “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."
In the letter, Mackenzie mentions a passage from Annie Dillard’s book The Writing Life. She says she once read the passage relating to writing which mentioned not saving our best ideas for later chapters, but rather using them now. It says: “Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book… The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better… Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”
Mackenzie says in the letter, the words felt true in life and inspired her most over the years. “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,” she says.
The philanthropist adds that “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. And sure enough, something greater rises up every time we give. We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand."
MacKenzie married Jeff Bezos in 1993, one year before he started Amazon from his garage in Seattle, United States. He is estimated to be worth around $150bn. The Giving Pledge was started to encourage the world’s richest people to commit to giving away at least half their wealth to charity.
It has been signed by over 200 individuals, couples and families from 23 countries. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, CNN founder Ted Turner, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg are among those who have made promises to the intiative. This year pledges have also been made by hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, co-founder of US investment firm GMO Jeremy Grantham and Emirati businessman Sheikh Mohammed bin Musallam bin Ham Al Ameri.
Jeff Bezos congratulated his former wife in a tweet saying “MacKenzie is going to be amazing and thoughtful and effective at philanthropy, and I’m proud of her. Her letter is so beautiful. Go get ‘em MacKenzie.”