MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced on Tuesday that she had donated $1.7 billion to 116 different charities.
By Friday afternoon, the continued rise in Amazon’s share price meant that Scott made $2 billion in a few days, making her richer than she was before making the donation.
Scott received a quarter of her ex-husband’s Amazon shares in a divorce settlement last year, giving her a 4% stake that was worth more than $35 billion at the time.
According to a recent estimate by Bloomberg, Scott currently has a net worth of almost $61 billion.
Scott signed up to Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge initiative last year. The initiative encourages the world's richest people to pledge a majority of their wealth to good causes.
In a post on Medium explaining why she had made the huge donations, she wrote: “Last year I pledged to give the majority of my wealth back to the society that helped generate it, to do it thoughtfully, to get started soon, and to keep at it until the safe is empty.
“There’s no question in my mind that anyone’s personal wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.”
The charities Scott gave money to last week included groups working to improve racial equality, LGBTQ+ issues, and climate change. Among the beneficiaries of her generosity were the NAACP Legal Defence and Education Fund, the Obama Foundation, the George W. Bush Presidential Centre, The RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline and the European Climate Foundation.
Scott identified a catalogue of problems facing the world at present. She says “Like many, I watched the first half of 2020 with a mixture of heartbreak and horror.”
In the Medium post explaining her donations, she included a long list of organisations that she plans to give money to over the coming year, adding “I’ll highlight more as my giving continues in the months and years to come.”
Her ex appears to have given rather less of his colossal fortune away. He announced the founding of a climate change charity, The Bezos Earth Fund earlier this year but as yet little is known about it.
He did hand $100 million to Feeding America for coronavirus relief and has promised $2 billion to education and homelessness charities but according to Rob Reich, a Stanford philosopher who writes about charitable giving, the full sum has yet to be paid out.