Bezos divorce has Amazon shareholders wondering what’s next
This divorce could get messy — but could it mess up Amazon and its high-flying stock price?
That’s what investors in the world’s most valuable company are wondering after Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, delivered this week’s bombshell that they’re divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
Under one worst-case scenario, Amazon’s founder and chief executive finds himself unable to work amid the marital stress. In another, his soon-to-be ex-wife diminishes his clout at the company by selling her half of their 80 million shares, valued at $137 billion.
Theoretically, MacKenzie Bezos could use her half of the 16 percent Amazon stake — which she appears to be entitled to under Washington state law — to wage a noisy shareholder battle against her soon-to-be ex-husband, as well as the company’s board.
Among the potential beefs: Conflict-of-interest concerns raised by a National Enquirer report this week that Bezos hired Lin-Manuel Miranda to direct an Amazon Super Bowl commercial and insisted that his alleged mistress, former “Extra” anchor Lauren Sanchez, be on the production team.
While the possibilities are endless, most experts think such calamities are unlikely. That’s despite the fact that the breakup comes amid shocking reports this week about Jeff Bezos’ reported affair with Sanchez, including allegations that he sent her a slew of steamy texts and pictures.
Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said he sees “no impact” to Amazon’s stock, adding that he “cannot imagine” MacKenzie Bezos would be inclined to sow chaos at the company.
Indeed, most on Wall Street appear to be betting that the couple — which said in a statement this week they will “continue our shared lives as friends” — won’t let their problems become Amazon’s.
“The biggest risk is that she somehow decides to sell all of her stock and disrupts the normal trading flow, but most financial advisers would try to talk her out of it,” Pachter told The Post.
Amazon shares were little changed Thursday, closing down 0.2 percent at $1,656.22. Reps did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Assuming both parties are placing a priority on the good health of Amazon and its stock, a divorce settlement could call for Jeff Bezos to keep voting control over their combined shares, even as MacKenzie remains the financial beneficiary of half of them, Lauri Kritt Martin, a California divorce lawyer, told The Post.
“Jeff Bezos would have a fiduciary duty not to tank the business,” she noted.
Likewise, if MacKenzie gets half of the massive Bezos stake, she will be bound by regulatory disclosure rules preventing big shareholders from making any major moves without public notice, Martin says.
“I don’t think recent developments have changed anything,” said Thomas Forte, an analyst at DA Davidson, pointing to Bezos’ influence over Amazon.
“There’s so much money and [Jeff and MacKenzie] don’t want to upset the business so they’re going to want to do this quietly,” Martin said.
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