They say that every billionaire CEO dreams of their perfect, fairy-tale wedding. From an early age, infantile entrepreneurs born with a gleam in their eye and a knack for concocting brilliant business schemes wish for two things in life; that they accrue as much wealth as possible, and that one day, if possible, they can share that wealth with a significant other. When Jeff Bezos was born in the city that never sleeps, Albuquerque, New Mexico, he too fantasized about falling in love. “Maybe her name will be Alexa, no…that seems weird, but I’ll keep that one for safekeeping.”In 1992, a period heralded as the golden age of romance, Bezos met MacKenzie Tuttle, and within a year, they were married. Some say that Tuttle’s love for Bezos gave him the drive to found Amazon (AMZN) two years into their matrimony, while others praise his business acumen. Howbeit, as many single-and-ready-to-mingles will tell you, not all marriages can withstand the test of time.
It is with great sadness that I report that Bezos today announced, via a tweet from his Twitter account, that he and his wife are divorcing. Bezos’ tweet, sent out earlier morning, said:
“We want to make people aware of development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends. We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again…”
–Jeff Bezos via Twitter
As painful as this divorce must be for Bezos and his soon to be ex-wife, consumers, shareholders, and this content writer are concerned about how the divorce may impact one of the world’s most valuable publicly traded companies. For those unaware of divorce law in Washington State, the home of Jeff Bezos, the region has community property divorce laws, which may drastically harm Bezos’ wealth, given that his ex-wife may be entitled to half his assets. Reports suggest that nearly $137 billion is at stake in the coming months of the divorce.
In a 2013 Stanford study, entitled “Separation Anxiety: The Impact of CEO Divorce on Shareholders,” researchers investigated how companies and their chief executives fare over the course of divorce proceedings, ultimately arriving at the conclusion that there are “three potential ways in which a CEO divorce might impact a corporation and its shareholders.” The first, and perhaps most likely, relates to loss of control or influence. A CEO with a significant ownership stake in a company, like Bezos who owns 16.3%, may be forced to sell or transfer these assets to meet the demands of a divorce settlement. If this were to take place, not only would Bezos lose the influence he possesses over Amazon (AMZN), but due to such a large sell of, the company’s share value could drop as a result. The report says that “shareholder reaction to the loss of control will; vary, depending on the view that investors have of CEO performance and governance quality.” The second potential outcome suggests that a virile can affect the productivity, concentration, and energy levels of the CEO. According to Wheatley, Vogt, and Murrell, “Thirty-seven percent of companies report that employee divorce negatively impacts firm productivity, sometimes leading to premature retirement in extreme cases. Presently, Amazon’s (AMZN) shares have remained largely uninjured, up 0.41% in late-afternoon trading on Wednesday, with shares at $1,663.64 per share. Analysts believe Amazon (AMZN) stock is safe, for now, because of how Bezos worded the divorce in his tweet, stressing that he and his wife would remain friends.