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Image / Agenda / Money

A lesson for the billionaire boys? World’s richest woman gives $6 billion to charity in a single year


By Amanda Cassidy
17th Dec 2020
A lesson for the billionaire boys? World’s richest woman gives $6 billion to charity in a single year

MacKenzie Scott is making her mark as a new kind of philanthropist


She was described as a “gold-digger”, who made her fortune riding on the coat-tails of her Amazon founder ex-husband Jeff Bezos, but now 50-year-old MacKenzie Scott is changing that narrative.

Despite being the target of ignorant and misogynistic comments, Scott played a central role in the company’s growth during its early years. She was Amazon’s first-ever employee and earned her stake in the company. Bezos and Scott launched the business in their garage, eventually moving to a rundown office in an industrial section of Seattle.

In a blog post this week, Scott explained how she’d given away $4.2 billion of her fortune since August, describing her flurry of donations because of the “wrecking ball” effect of the pandemic.

She also pointed out that Coronavirus had also “substantially increased the wealth of billionaires.” Her wealth is now valued at more than $60 billion, representing a boost of almost $24 billion since the start of the year.

Responsibility

It is a refreshing self-awareness when it comes to wealth and power and the responsibility that comes with that for lifting up others.

In her post on Medium, called “384 ways to help”, the philanthropist outlines how she used a data-driven approach to find out how best to use her money to meet immediate needs. 384 donations were made to groups across America including food banks, meals on wheels, and Goodwill, paid upfront and given without conditions.

Scott was married to Jeff Bezos, founder of online retailer Amazon for 25 years after meeting when they worked together on a hedge fund. As part of their divorce settlement last year, Jeff transferred 25% of his Amazon stake to MacKenzie, which translated as 4% of the company.

Now, with her weath her own, Scott is rewriting the philanthropy playbook. In a Stephanie Clifford profile piece, she says that Scott has far outpaced her ex-husband when it comes to the giving realm.

“High-profile tech philanthropists —  often operate as if they know best not just in business, but in solving societal problems, too. “Their engineering or technocratic orientation to their business, their wealth creation, transfers over to their philanthropic practices. To put it really crudely, technocratic philanthropy is philanthropy that is done to people rather than with people.”

No strings

Scott, in this case, has not asked for specific metrics to be hit, she doesn’t want a wing of a hospital named after herself, she isn’t looking for programmes she favoured. It is unadulterated giving to organisations led by people with “lived experience.”

Scott, an author and Princeton graduate, is by all accounts a quiet and some would say, withdrawn person. Hardly in the spotlight apart from when the news of her husband’s affair hit, she ceded the limelight to her husband.

But it also meant she was often cast as wife-of rather than as her own person. In 2019,  a tabloid article revealed that Bezos had been having an affair with TV host Lauren Sánchez, and ran excerpts of their racy texts. It was the first time Scott came to the attention of people, meaning some felt that she was “fair-game” for being called a money-grabber as their divorce was finalised.

But for now, the billionaire bad boys can take note. Scott has set a new bar for giving. Perhaps learning from experience what cold hard cash can actually accomplish, as well as what it can’t.

Image via HRO gala

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