Then-MacKenzie Bezos and Jeff Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in California. File
MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist and former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, slams US wealth gap as she gives $2.7 billion to 286 organisations, blasting the unfairness of American inequality as she did so, foreign media reported on Wednesday.
“We are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change,” Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife wrote in a Medium post. “In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.”
It is the third round of no-strings-attached, major philanthropic gifts Scott has made, which together rival the charitable contributions made by the largest foundations.
Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, wrote in a Medium post that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, made the donations to enable the recipients to continue their work and as a "signal of trust and encouragement” to them and others. And she made clear in her announcement that she is troubled by the increasing concentration of vast wealth among a small proportion of individuals.
She and Jewett worked with a team of researchers and philanthropy advisers "to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”
"In this effort," she said, "we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.”
In 2020, Scott made two similar surprise announcements, donating a combined $6 billion to COVID-19 relief, gender equity, historically Black colleges and universities and other schools.
The 286 organisations chosen for Tuesday's announcement included "equity-oriented” nonprofits working in long-neglected areas and were selected from a rigorous process of research and analysis, Scott said.
"Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose,” she wrote. Scott’s wealth, estimated by Forbes at roughly $60 billion, has only grown since she divorced from Bezos in 2019 and walked away with a 4% stake in Amazon.
Shortly after the split, the 51-year-old signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment developed by Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffett to get the world’s richest to give a majority of their wealth during their lifetimes or in their wills.
Jewett also became a signatory earlier this year. David Callahan, the founder of the Inside Philanthropy website and author of "The Givers: Wealth, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age” says Scott’s giving shows not only an emphasis on the wealth gap, but also an attempt to help raise the political voice of historically marginalised communities.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, finalised the biggest divorce settlement in history on Thursday, leaving him with 75 per cent of their stock in the tech giant and giving her nearly $36 billion in shares.
Dan Jewett, who made the announcement in a letter to the website of the nonprofit organisation the Giving Pledge on Saturday, said he never imagined he would be in a position to talk about giving away significant wealth during his lifetime in order to make a difference in other people's lives.
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