They’ve got it all: Founders of Amazon.com, a business that is projected to soon be worth a trillion dollars, five gorgeous homes in the most desirable locations, four amazing children and a loving, mutually-supportive marriage that is going on its 25th year.
You might think that the world’s richest man (net worth $90.6 billion!) comes from a wealthy, blue-blood family. But nothing could be further from the truth. Jeff’s father, Ted Jorgensen, was an 18-year old alcoholic circus performer who left the family when Jeff was only 3 years old. His mother, Jacklyn, was merely 16 when Jeff was born. She later married an immigrant from Cuba, Mike Bezos, who then adopted Jeff. Jeff says that he was greatly influenced by his kind stepfather who was key in inspiring Jeff to reach for the stars.
Contrary to Jeff, MacKenzie grew up in a well-to-do family. Her father worked in finance and her mom stayed at home, cheerfully cooking, decorating and taking care of the children. Mackenzie was educated at the exclusive Hotchkiss boarding school in Connecticut and studied under Toni Morrison, the writer, at Ivy League Princeton University in New Jersey.
How did they meet?
Jeff and MacKenzie met in 1992 at the hedge fund company D.E. Shaw in New York City. MacKenzie worked for Jeff, who was a Senior Vice-President there. They married one year later, in 1993, and left New York City for Seattle in 1994 where they launched Amazon.
Their recipe for a happy marriage?
Jeff and MacKenzie support each other’s endeavors and passions. MacKenzie admits that she made the first move to get Jeff to notice her at D.E. Shaw: “My office was next door to his, and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh,” she remembers. “How could you not fall in love with that laugh?” she said in a 2013 interview with Vogue magazine.
MacKenzie says their marriage is two complementary parts that make up one happy whole. Their personalities are opposites: he is an outgoing, extroverted, life-of-the-party sort, and she is more introspective, literary. He buys her clothes! He’ll be out shopping and phone MacKenzie, asking her what size she wears in, say, a fancy cocktail dress. Then he will come home with the surprise. But since he pays attention to her taste and they are very much in tune with each other, he rarely purchases something that she won’t like.
They support each other’s work
MacKenzie always has Jeff read her manuscripts either while she is in the process of writing or after she has finished her novels. She trusts his critical eye and feels his support has been instrumental in allowing her to let the creative juices flow. “Writing makes her really happy,” Jeff said in the 2013 Vogue interview. “The days she gets up early to write are always good ones in the Bezos household. By the time I come down,” he said, “she will be literally dancing in the kitchen, which the kids and I love.
MacKenzie, in turn, supports her husband’s professional projects by offering emotional and tangible support. When he was in the early dreaming stages of envisioning Amazon, MacKenzie was his best sounding board. And when things took off and Jeff sometimes found himself short-handed with the daily running of what was going to become the world’s one-stop shopping resource, MacKenzie taught herself accounting skills, made phone calls, ran errands, did research…anything and everything to help her husband’s vision become reality.
When a biography of her husband was published in 2013, MacKenzie published a very bad review of it, calling “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone, unbalanced and inaccurate. She was deeply affected by this book which she found speculative and not based on facts. And she should know! She had been married to Jeff for twenty years when “The Everything Store” was published.
What do they do with all that money?
Bezos made big news when he purchased Whole Foods in 2017. He has started Blue Origin, a company that is investing in space access technologies. He also donates to health research (The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center), Princeton University (Jeff and MacKenzie’s alma mater), arts and culture (a $10 million donation to the Museum of History and Industry) and The Bezos Family Foundation which distributes grants and gifts to various educational institutions.
In 2012 they donated $2.5 million in support to pass Referendum 74, which legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State.
Who wouldn’t want to hear her husband say this?
“I think my wife is resourceful, smart, brainy, and hot, but I had the good fortune of having seen her résumé before I met her, so I knew exactly what her SATs were,” Bezos told Vogue.