Prominent divorce attorney Randy Kessler believes the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce — likely to be one of the most expensive ever as he’s the richest man in the world worth an estimated $137 billion — will take a few months at a minimum, unless the process started a while ago and they have been able to keep that private.
Bezos released a joint statement with his novelist wife revealing that they were separating after 25 years of marriage which produced four children.
Bezos, 54, has fallen love with news anchor/actress Lauren Sanchez, 49.
“The valuing of the assets is what often takes time, months at a minimum,” Kessler, past Chairman of the American Bar Association Family Law Section, and Litigation Professor at Emory University, tells PEOPLE. “Then the competing forensic accountants and business valuation experts may meet to try to concur on the values and reconcile and different valuations. Then it will be ripe for mediation.”
Kessler believes Bezos’ relationship with Sanchez which started while the pair were collaborating on several work projects, may give his wife MacKenzie, 48, some moral leverage. (Sanchez is ending her own 13-year marriage to high powered Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell. They have two children together, and Sanchez has an older son from a prior relationship.)
“We do not know all of the facts but the marriage may have been over for a long time already,” says Kessler.
“With this amount of wealth, it will not matter as much because the ‘victim’ spouse, will be financially secure with 50 percent or even with one percent of the marital estate. Also, judges are very rarely concerned with who caused the divorce, especially when there is enough money for everyone.”
The only way Kessler sees Sanchez as an issue in affecting the settlement is if MacKenzie is so upset about the end of her marriage that she cannot bring herself to simply have an amicable 50 percent split.
“This is understandable and happens often,” he continues. “In that case, Mr. Bezos may well agree to give her more than 50 percent.
Additionally, Kessler believes there will be a period of financial analysis in the divorce so that everyone is clear on the depth of the marital estate.
“All parties need to know what is liquid and divisible so each will consider what assets/companies/real estate is wanted. Then they will mediate, compare who wants what and do their best to divide it, starting with a presumption that it should be divided as evenly as possible. Either side would be well within their rights to say, ‘I don’t need 50 percent, as long as I get X (where X may be the thing they want most, like a certain company or property).’”
Kessler speculates that Bezos’s biggest concern could be diluting his power in the company.
“In cases like this, like Tom Cruise, Steve Wynn, etc., where public reputation is valuable, the most important things is to keep it amicable and keep the company, Amazon, and all of the others, in a good light,” says Kessler.
“Consumer confidence is a huge asset that neither wants to destroy. We call that trying not to kill the golden goose.”
Worries over the value of Amazon stock are also at issue in such a high stakes divorce. Not just bad public relations, but fear of the future, of the company firing key employees because one spouse did not like them, etc,. could all play a role in the company stock.
“They will do everything they can to avoid such a dilemma,” Kessler says.