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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.
MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has donated millions of her personal wealth to historically Black colleges and universities.
Scott recently noted on Twitter that she dropped the ‘Bezos’ surname and is now using the “middle name I grew up with, after my grandfather Scott,” she wrote. As the third richest woman in the world, Scott announced in a Medium blog post on Tuesday that she has donated $1.7 billion to charity.
Among the beneficiaries are Howard University, Xavier University of Louisiana and Hampton University. Each confirmed that they received the largest single donation in their schools’ history.
“I would like to thank Ms. Mackenzie Scott for her investment into Howard University and our 153-year mission of serving a diverse community of dynamic scholars who come here for an education and leave here with purpose to serve the world,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement. “We plan to immediately put this eight-figure gift to good use to support components of our 5-year strategic plan to help students graduate on time, retain our talented faculty, enhance our campus infrastructure and support academic innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Howard did not disclose the amount it received but Xavier was reportedly given $20 million. The university noted in a statement announcing the donation that the institution has produced “more African American MDs than any other institution in the United States, also federal judges, civil rights attorneys, renowned artists and musicians, business leaders, and elected officials – serving on local, state and national levels.”
Hampton University did not reveal the amount received but intends to put the funds towards the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, “where lives are saved daily from the devastating effects of cancer,” the university said in a statement.
Scott reportedly has a net worth of $36 billion, according to Forbes. Most of her wealth comes from the 4% stake in Amazon that she bagged as part of her divorce settlement.
In her Medium post, Scott vowed to continue paying it forward “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,” she wrote.
She listed some of the organizations she has donated money to over the past year:
Though this work is ongoing and will last for years, I’m posting an update today because my own reflection after recent events revealed a dividend of privilege I’d been overlooking: the attention I can call to organizations and leaders driving change,” she wrote.