Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I linked to an article yesterday about Jeff Bezos pledging to give away most of his fortune.
“The hard part is figuring out how to do it in a levered way,” Bezos said.
A lot of people reacted to his newfound philanthropic goals by suggesting he's only doing this because of the example that his ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, has set the past few years—basically giving her money to charitable causes like it's going out of style.
Hmmm, I thought. But then, on Tuesday, someone shared MacKenzie's latest post on Medium with me, further explaining her philanthropic strategy. And it got me thinking a bit more about Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, together.
Let's go to MacKenzie Scott's latest post, first. The headline is "Of and by," and she starts out by quoting a short poem by Gwen Nell Westerman, who is the poet laureate of Minnesota. It's called Dakota Homecoming, and Scott says it "inspires me by shutting me up every time I read it."
I don't think I can simply copy it here without violating copyright (how quaint of me in 2022), but to summarize a 63-word poem in even fewer words: I think it's about people insisting on making contributions on their own terms, as opposed to how the people they want to help or who they feel indebted to might prefer.
At the end of this, Scott writes the following (heavily edited, but still):
Over the last seven months, with the help of my team, I gave $1,990,800,000 to 343 organizations supporting the voices and opportunities of people from underserved communities. ...
The funds we picked look for teams with lived experience in the issues they’re addressing ...
I needn’t ask those I care about what to say to them, or what to do for them. I can share what I have with them to stand behind them as they speak and act for themselves.
These are pretty deep thoughts, and as someone who is unlikely ever to have $1,990,800,000 or more, or to face the "hard part" of giving away billions or even millions of dollars, I can probably only understand so much.
But I'm drawn to the ongoing relationship between Bezos and Scott as part of the story here.
Three years ago, Bezos and Scott announced their breakup via Twitter. (Ugh, but still.)
As far as we can tell from the outside, the divorce was at least partly prompted by Bezos's affair with his now-girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez. This could have been one of the ugly split-ups of all time—not as bad as Henry VII and Anne Boleyn for example, but right up there with Jack Welch and Jane Beasley.
Yet, Bezos and Scott seem to have settled everything amicably and straightforwardly, perhaps epitomizing the idea that "the smaller the spoils, the greater the fight."
MacKenzie Scott walked away with 25 percent of the couple's Amazon holdings (many billions of dollars); Bezos kept the rest.
They announced this resolution on Twitter as well, and after reading their parallel tweets back then, I ran around telling my wife for however many hours that I'd discovered a secret code in their messages: basically that they'd used tortured language to ensure that each of their tweets was exactly 93 words.
I had no idea what to make of this—numerology?—but I wrote about it at the time. Then a reader pointed out that they had been married in 1993.
And, I later found that their marriage license had been issued on Wednesday September 1, 1993—and there are some second-hand, unconfirmed sources out there that say that the ceremony itself was on Friday September 3, 1993.
That would have been 9/3/93. And that made my romantic-to-a-fault heart skip a beat.
Tell you what: Let's suspend our disbelief and take a little inspiration from the notion that a couple embroiled in what could have been the mother of all divorce fights instead agreed to move on with such comity that they included a nod to their wedding date in their quite conciliatory divorce statements.
And let's imagine that for all his foibles, Bezos is still inspired by his former wife—the mother of his kids—to look back poetically from the future, as she might, and see that one way to have greater positive impact will be to have given things away.
I don't know if it's true. But, it makes my day a little better to choose to think so.
7 other things worth knowing today
Two Polish citizens were killed by a Russian-made missile on Tuesday, raising fears that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spill over into NATO territory. It remains unclear where the missile was fired from, and why it fell in Poland. (CNN)
How a controversial youth soccer overhaul put the U.S. men's national team on a path toward World Cup contention. (The World Cup is starting; the U.S. has one of the youngest teams. This is part of why and how the team came together, starting many years ago.) Also: How an underground map is helping thirsty World Cup fans find alcohol in mostly dry Qatar. (Yahoo Sports, x2)
It's only November, but the fiercest lake-effect snow event yet this season—and potentially in years — will ramp up downwind of the Great Lakes late this week and bury some locations near Buffalo with feet of snow, grind travel to a halt and potentially stamp new marks in the weather history books. (Accuweather)
Estee Lauder is acquiring luxury powerhouse Tom Ford in a deal valued at $2.8 billion, marking the beauty firm’s biggest acquisition yet. (AP)
Ticketmaster’s homepage was temporarily knocked offline Tuesday as fans flooded the site to get tickets for Taylor Swift’s “Eras” tour. By Tuesday morning, Ticketmaster was trending on Twitter, with fans flooding the site with complaints. “Swifties” was also trending on Twitter. (NBC News)
Donald Trump entered the 2024 US presidential race on Tuesday, making official what he’s been teasing for months. Earlier in the day, it was reported that the Trump family had struck a deal with a Saudi-based real estate company to license its name to a $1.6 billion housing and golf complex. (Bloomberg, NYT)
A baby elephant got more than her 15 minutes of fame by stealing the spotlight from a Kenyan TV reporter. I admit I'm including this 100 percent because it's cute. Take a look. (WVTM)
Thanks for reading. I wrote about some of this for Inc.com. See you in the comments.