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Bezos and Gates

At the risk of sounding like a gossip columnist, there have been two particular stories of divorces lately that have come to my attention: 1) Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos; 2) Bill and Melinda Gates.

The Bezos divorce was finalized in April of 2019, but it was a recent story about a gift that Jeff Bezos made that was just in the news last week that brought him to mind. Further, as I write this, he is finalizing plans for his space trip that hopefully will be successful as of July 20.

About a week ago, another billionaire, Richard Branson from Great Britain, just completed a space flight of a little over 50 miles high over New Mexico. He was accompanied by five Virgin Galactic employees. Then there is also Elon Musk’s Space X company where it is predicted that with $55 million or so you could go to the International Space Station for an eight-day stay.

The Bezos space flight (Blue Origins Space Flight) possibly overshadows his recent philanthropy of $200 million given to The Smithsonian Institution.

For any of my readers who have not made it to Washington, D.C. and enjoyed some small part of the vast collections and work of The Smithsonian, put such a visit on your bucket list. If that isn’t possible, reading The Smithsonian Magazine would be an excellent choice for keeping up with both past history and present scientific breakthroughs — certainly one of the best magazine bargains available for a little over a dollar a month!

The Smithsonian is not A museum, it is a collection of many museums including natural history, art, science, etc. The Smithsonian was founded by a gift from James Smithson in 1846. The $200 million bequest from Bezos is the largest private gift to the museum since that time and as might be expected, a major portion of that will support the Air and Space Museum portion. The Smithsonian is currently under renovations projected to cost $1 billion.

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The Bezos divorce did not leave the distaff side out in the cold. MacKenzie Bezos, a billionaire as well, is one of the wealthiest women in the world. She reportedly helped Jeff from the beginning of their marriage back in the early 1990s and a statement at the time of the divorce said, they had had a great life together as a married couple and they will continue as parents, friends and work on ventures and projects.

One early project was a $2 billion fund to help fight homelessness. She did grant voting rights on her Amazon stock to Jeff.

Jeff is the son of Jacklynn and Ted Jorgensen, but was adopted at age 4 by Jacklynn’s second husband, Mike Bezos (an engineer for Exxon), hence becoming Jeff Bezos. Jacklynn and Mike helped to the tune of about a quarter of a million dollars loan to Jeff and MacKenzie to start Amazon. Jeff and MacKenzie have three sons and an adopted daughter.

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There are a number of parallels in the backgrounds for the two families (Bezos & Gates). Both couples were married in the early 1990s and so both were married close to 25 years or a little more. The Gates divorce became official in May of this year.

Bill and Melinda have three children: Jennifer, Rory, and Phoebe. Both families have pretty much sheltered their offspring from much of the publicity coming to the elders. The oldest Bezos child is Preston, but the other Bezos children are not generally known in the press.

Jennifer Gates has completed a year of medical school, attributing her interest in health to discussions of her parents and funding of philanthropic gifts for better health worldwide.

Both Bill and Melinda have worked jointly on the charities that are a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, having donated over $36 billion to the fund. It should be noted that billionaire friend, Warren Buffett has also donated billions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Of interest is that the foundation is set up in such a way that it will spend itself out within 10 years of their deaths rather than have a perpetual life.

With the divorce and a settlement not unlike the Bezos divorce, respect for each other is an element. Melinda also has become one of the world’s wealthiest women and controlling her own philanthropic interests.

One of the charities I have chosen to personally support is the fight against polio where the Gates Foundation has for a number of years matched or even double-matched Rotary members’ donations (hundreds of millions a year) in a program called Polio Plus that is very close to eliminating polio worldwide.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

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