She may be married to the richest billionaire, but her life is surprisingly unassuming

By Sam Gillette
July 27, 2017 04:31 PM
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Jeff Bezos, the tech mogul and Amazon founder, has just been named the richest person in the world – with an estimated fortune of nearly $91 billion.

But Bezos’ partner for the last 24 years – since before Amazon was even founded – seems far from living in a gilded palace one might picture for the wife of the man now richer than Bill Gates.

Just a few years ago, MacKenzie Bezos, a novelist, told Vogue about how she was still driving the couple’s four children to school in a Honda minivan.

So who is Jeff Bezos’ wife? Here are six things to know about her:

She pursued Jeff while they were working at the same investment firm.

In recounting his search for the perfect mate, Jeff Bezos told Wired in 1999, “The number-one criterion was that I wanted a woman who could get me out of a Third World prison.” MacKenzie Bezos (née Tuttle) proved her resourcefulness by asking him out for their first date. At the time, she was a research associate at D.E. Shaw (he gave her her first interview at the firm). “My office was next door to his, and all day long I listened to that fabulous laugh,” MacKenzie, 47, told Vogue in 2013. “How could you not fall in love with that laugh?” In 1993, six months after their first lunch date, they were married. “I think my wife is resourceful, smart, brainy, and hot,” Jeff Bezos, 53, told Vogue, “but I had the good fortune of having seen her résumé before I met her, so I knew exactly what her SATs were.”

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MacKenzie is a two-time novelist and her husband is her biggest supporter.

Before she was Mrs. Bezos, MacKenzie attended Princeton University where she studied under famed author Toni Morrison. (She was “one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative-writing classes . . . really one of the best,” Morrison said of her.) Her first novel, The Testing of Luther Albright, was released in 2005 and won her an American Book Award. Her second novel, Traps, is a thriller that released in 2013. According to Vogue, her husband would take a day off to read her manuscript and give her thorough notes. But she held off showing him the Traps manuscript. “Not talking about it to Jeff gave me an extremely rewarding carrot,” she said. “The sooner I finished, the sooner I could share it with him and talk about these characters who had been taking up so much space in my head. By the last three months, they were so real and important to me, I could start crying just thinking about them while driving to pick up the kids from school.”

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They are both growing philanthropists.

While the couple has been criticized for not being as philanthropic as Bill Gates, their list of good works is expanding. In 2011, they donated $15 million to Princeton University to create the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics. A year later they donated a “historic” $2.5 million to Washington United for Marriage to support efforts to legalize gay marriage. And in 2014, MacKenzie Bezos founded Bystander Revolution, an organization that battles the bullying epidemic. Last month, Jeff put out a call on Twitter requesting ideas: “I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

Mackenzie vocally defended her husband and his business.

When long-time journalist Brad Stone’s biography of Jeff Bezos and his company, The Everything Store, was published in 2013, MacKenzie Bezos was not pleased. She broadcast her displeasure with a one-star review of the book on its Amazon page. During her 1,000-word tear down, she described it as “a lopsided and misleading portrait of the people and culture at Amazon.” She criticized the book for its “inaccuracies” and a skewed version of reality. “I have firsthand knowledge of many of the events,” she wrote. “… I worked with him and many others represented in the converted garage, the basement warehouse closet, the barbecue-scented offices, the Christmas-rush distribution centers, and the door-desk filled conference rooms in the early years of Amazon’s history. Jeff and I have been married for 20 years.” Stone argued that his book was fair and said he interviewed more than 300 current or former Amazon employees. “Most of the readers and reviewers have been inspired by Amazon’s story,” Stone told the New York Times. “To me, it’s not an unflattering account.”

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The Bezos prove the cliché that opposites attract.

“Jeff is the opposite of me,” MacKenzie told Vogue. “He likes to meet people. He’s a very social guy. Cocktail parties for me can be nerve-racking. The brevity of conversations, the number of them—it’s not my sweet spot.” She prefers jeans and a t-shirt, but Jeff loves to spoil her. “I pay attention to what she likes to wear, and you’d be amazed by how often things work,” he said about buying clothes for her that catch his eye. “Sometimes I call her and say, ‘What’s your such-and-such size?’ and she says, ‘Why?’ and I say, ‘None of your business!’ It delights her.” He concluded: “I highly recommend it to any man.”