You didn’t build that, Jeff Bezos edition


Admittedly, MacKenzie’s role in the history of Amazon may not be as crucial as the existence of the World Wide Web. Then again, it’s hard to say for sure.

See also, my review of The Everything Store.

(The book describes Mrs. Bezos as providing some assistance, such as bookkeeping or getting shipments out the door, during the first years of Amazon, but then exiting the workforce. She is mentioned on page 22 as having a degree in English and “targeting” Jeff Bezos for marriage, on page 27 as “supporting” Jeff Bezos in moving from NY to Seattle, on page 39 as driving boxes to UPS, on page 40 as depositing checks, and on page 60 as attending a 1997 post-IPO party. There is no mention of MacKenzie Bezos as having had any role in the management or operation of Amazon after 1997.)


8 thoughts on “You didn’t build that, Jeff Bezos edition

  1. Let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that the Mrs didn’t do anything directly for Amazon; she didn’t even mail some boxes. Let’s say she was a homemaker, pure and simple. Would you still argue that her contribution to Amazon’s success was precisely zero? I.e., Bezos-married and Bezos-bachelor would have contributed identically with respect to Amazon’s growth? Wouldn’t Bezos-bachelor have to spend more time, I dunno, grocery shopping and doing laundry?

    • Single guy here. I haven’t cooked or done laundry in 4 years, and that’s on a meagre six figure salary.

      Relationships have always hindered my work, never helped.

    • In a market economy this should be easy to measure. Any employee who acquires a stay-at-home partner would get an immediate raise commensurate with the expected productivity boost. (Or, if denied, is immediately poached by a competitor offering a higher wage.)

  2. They’ll do fine. Stop worrying about them because all you’re going to do is waste your time, which is important because you actually try to do something good with it. They have more than enough money to can do exactly like what Mike Bloomberg said when he received his Entrepeneur Sculpture from JHU a long time ago (I was in the room): “I have an army of lawyers who make sure I can do whatever I want.”

    True fact, true quote. Don’t trouble yourself over these two. They’re both GENIUSES for discerning how to be extremely rich and they have an army of lawyers. It’s gonna be a big lawyer war. Yay!

  3. Alex: Nobody is worried about either Bezos’s ability to survive on $70 billion. What’s interesting about this situation is how Americans think and write about it.

    Filbert: Is a stay-at-home spouse critical to business success? I think it is tough to say because oftentimes it is the success of one spouse that leads the other to choose to stay home (since the marginal income, after tax, would be insignificant). tries to look at this a bit, but working productivity is not mentioned. Mostly both men and women become less happy with marriage over time, concludes the cited research.

    Would Jeff Bezos, bachelor, have had less time to devote to Amazon than Jeff Bezos, husband and father of four children? Maybe, but I don’t think shopping and laundry would explain any part of the difference. For one thing, at this level of success it seems unlikely that either spouse did any shopping or laundry (Amazon went public 21 years ago). Your typical CEO doesn’t need to shop or cook, even without a spouse at home, just as a Google or Facebook employee doesn’t need to shop or cook. There is always food available at the office.

  4. How about the contribution she made to his wealth by simply not divorcing him 20 years ago (back when she maybe could have made a bigger claim on having put a lot into amazon)? She would have taken half of his (considerably smaller) amount of property, left him a broken man, and possibly distracted him from being productive with lawsuits and misery during the years when Amazon went from being a books-based to an IT and logistics titan. I know it’s anecdotal, but the men I know with supportive wives seem to to a lot better in business.

  5. I think it’s incredibly sexist to assume Mackenzie Bezos had little to nothing to do with Amazon’s success after the early years. Even if she was ‘just’ a mom and housekeeper, it would be significant.

    But their joint statement (tweet) depicts a close friendship, which seems to conform with other statements Jeff Bezos has made over the years.

    Leaders need sounding boards, & I suspect someone innovating on a grand scale would have needed one even more. And super-rich & successful folks need someone who can still tell it to them straight.

    Who knows what their relationship is really like, but is it so easy to assume Amazon won’t be affected?

    • Why would it be “sexist” to believe that a stay-at-home adult dependent was not instrumental to a worker’s productivity? There are plenty of stay-at-home male adult dependents (some of whom do find their way into family court looking for a formal paycheck; see ).

      As noted above, the main thing that is interesting to me here is the different portrait painted pre- and post-split. While this couple was together there was no mention of the stay-at-home partner being responsible for any part of the business success over a 21-year period. Now that they are splitting up Americans don’t want to say “she is getting around $70 billion because that’s what Washington State family law entitles her to, simply for having been married and regardless of what she might have done” (in fact, she would have been entitled to roughly the same amount, I think, if she had moved to New Zealand on the day after the wedding and never spoken to Mr. Bezos again).

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