Wealthy novelist donates $1.7B to charity, including climate

Source: By Sophie Alexander, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2020

MacKenzie Scott said she has donated about $1.7 billion to several causes including racial equity, climate change and public health, as the world’s 13th-richest person works to fulfill a pledge to give away a majority of her wealth.

The novelist’s $59.3 billion fortune derives from a 4% stake in Amazon.com Inc., which she received as part of her divorce from Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man. In a blog post Tuesday, she outlined her philanthropy and said the global turmoil in the first half of 2020 spurred her to call attention to organizations and leaders driving change and addressing inequities. She wrote under what she said was her new last name, Scott. She still uses Bezos on her Twitter account.

“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,” she said.

Scott joins a growing list of American billionaires that have stepped up their giving at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated income inequality and the death of an unarmed Black man at the hands of Minneapolis police has driven calls for racial justice. Meanwhile, booming stock markets are lifting the value of shares that underpin their wealth, making them ever-more rich.

Scott’s Amazon stake was worth about $36 billion at the time of her divorce. That’s surged this year with a rally in the company’s shares, as the pandemic made consumers reliant on online shopping. She is now the second-wealthiest woman in the world, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Earlier this month, Warren Buffett — No. 6 on the list of richest people in the world — donated Berkshire Hathaway Inc. shares worth almost $3 billion.

In April, Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey committed to donate a piece of his stake in Square, the payments firm he co-founded, and has since been publicly posting his progress in a Google Docs spreadsheet.

At the time Dorsey made the commitment, the Square stake was worth $1 billion. So far, he’s donated more than $171 million, but the Square shares have more than doubled in value, meaning the billionaire has over $2 billion left to give away. Dorsey’s moving goalpost is an example of how billionaires can’t give away their fortunes fast enough.

In February, before the pandemic took hold of the U.S., Amazon’s Bezos announced he would commit $10 billion to fight climate change. At the time of the announcement, Bezos’s wealth had already grown $15.6 billion since the start of the year. By now, Bezos’s fortune has grown $63.6 billion in 2020 to $178.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Unlike his ex-wife and peers among the richest people in the world, Bezos has not signed the Giving Pledge, which commits them to donating the majority of their fortune in their lifetime.

Bezos appeared before Congress yesterday for the first time in an antitrust hearing alongside Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet Inc.’s Sundar Pichai.