More on Billionaires Divorcing

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Last week I wrote about the billionaire divorce I worked on, as the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce story made headlines. These cases are once-in-a-lifetime cases, although last year I had an opportunity to work on one again. But after failing to reach a settlement for several months, an offer was made that was finally good enough, and the divorce was settled before I was retained to do a lifestyle analysis.

I wanted to give you more insight into how these billionaire or mega-millionaire divorce cases work. It’s rare for one spouse to run to the courthouse and file for divorce. Because there is so much money involved, there is often a very long negotiation process before the general public even knows what is going on.

Typically the parties spend many months (or years?) working on a settlement so they can go to courthouse with a signed agreement in hand when they officially file for divorce. If there is a prenuptial agreement, that may help when trying to sort things out. Unless, of course, one party is contesting the prenup and they want to run to court to get that worked out.

In the Gates divorce, it was reported that Melinda hired attorneys to start working on it two years ago. This does not surprise me. It has also been reported that by the time Bill and Melinda married in 1994, he was was already worth more than $9 billion. So why didn’t they have a prenup?

Who knows. Now they’re dividing assets from their 27 year marriage. They reportedly have a “separation contract” and on the day the divorce became public, $1.8 billion in stock was transferred from Bill to Melinda. That separation contract is exactly the type of thing I’m talking about when I say ultra high net worth parties often like to make agreements before they file for divorce.

It is also being reported that Melinda Gates also had some estate and trust attorneys on her team during the negotiations. Some are saying that is unusual, but when you have literal teams of lawyers from multiple firms representing each party in the mega-rich divorce, this is also not surprising to me.

Depending on who you believe, Melinda and Bill Gates have a net worth of around $128 billion or $130 billion. That much wealth boggles my mind. I can only imagine the amount of real estate owned, the investments through their family office (Cascade Investment LLC), and the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.This is like one gigantic business splitting up, and it takes a lot of time to work out the details.

Billionaire Divorce

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The divorce of Bill and Melinda Gates has everyone talking about what it’s like to be a billionaire getting a divorce. Safe to say, it’s complicated.

This article in Forbes, For Richer and Richest:Inside The Billion-Dollar Marriages, Open Relationships And Bitter Divorces Of The Forbes 400, delves into a few of the realities. They mention Chicago billionaire Ken Griffin (founder of hedge fund Citadel) who got divorced in 2015. My involvement in the case was revealed by the Chicago Tribune in an article on the various people associated with the high ticket divorce.

Ken’s wife Ann Dias Griffin was asking for $1 million a month in child support payments for their three small children. My job as a financial expert was to comb through the family’s spending for the prior five years to determine the cost of the lifestyle of the children. This got complicated because there were many expenses that were for the whole family (for example, a family vacation to a tropical island), and I had to determine what amount to assign to the children. Continue reading

Dividing MacKenzie Bezos’s Fortune

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We keep hearing about the divorce of Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos and how “his” fortune of $135 to $140 billion related to Amazon will be divided.

People are speculating that there is no pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. Amazon was started after the couple was married, so the assets may be owned jointly and subject to a 50/50 split.

As we often see in cases in which the husband is the “moneyed” spouse (the one with the business involvement and the one whose name is on the paychecks), people talk about how much he will have to “give” his wife in the divorce. But where community property is involved, the spouses own the property jointly. Neither is “giving” property to the other. Instead, the property is divided. Continue reading