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Bezos By Far: The 5 Largest Billionaire Divorces In History

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Jeff Bezos announced on Thursday that he will give a 4% stake in Amazon—currently worth more than $35 billion—to his wife, MacKenzie, as part of their pending divorce, making it by far the largest divorce settlement in history. In January, soon after the couple announced their separation, Forbes assembled a list of the largest, strangest and most notable billionaire disunions on record—at least where we could follow the money. In some cases, like the split between Google’s Sergey Brin and Anne Wojcicki, we don’t know the size of the settlement because divorce filings were sealed.

Below are five of the largest settlements, in descending order.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos To Give MacKenzie 25% Of His Amazon Stake, Worth Tens Of Billions, In Divorce

1) Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos – At least $35 billion.

The couple met while both were working at hedge fund D.E. Shaw in New York. After they moved to Seattle, MacKenzie helped Jeff get Amazon off the ground. On April 4, they announced the terms of their divorce, which will likely become official over the summer: she will receive about 4% of Amazon’s outstanding shares—now worth over $35 billion. Jeff will hold on to all of rocket company Blue Origin and The Washington Post. Once the divorce is finalized, MacKenzie will likely be the world’s third-richest woman.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos Says National Enquirer Owner Tried To Blackmail Him

2) Bill and Sue Gross – $1.3 billion

The Grosses’ messy split minted a new billionaire and dragged down another. Sue filed for divorce in 2016 from her husband, the founder of asset-manager Pimco, and she walked away a year later with a $1.3 billion fortune. That haul included a $36 million Laguna Beach house and “Le Repos,” a contested 1932 Picasso painting that she later sold for $35 million. While Bill originally tried to hang on to one of their three pet cats, Sue eventually got custody of all of them. Bill lost his spot on The Forbes 400 in 2018 following 14 consecutive years on the list. Both now run their own charitable vehicles.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos, World’s Richest Person, Announces Divorce After 25 Years Of Marriage

3) Steve and Elaine Wynn – $850 million

The cofounders of casino giant Wynn Resorts divorced (for the second time) in 2010. That settlement dictated that Elaine, a Wynn Resorts board member since 2002, receive 11 million shares, then worth an estimated $795 million. Steve also sold around $114 million in stock that year—some, if not all, went to Elaine as part of the deal. She then sued Wynn Resorts in 2012 to sell part of her 9% stake and was kicked off the board three years later amid an ugly proxy battle.

After Steve stepped down as CEO and chairman in February 2018 amid sexual harassment allegations that he has denied, he sold all his shares. Elaine, now worth $2 billion, is Wynn Resorts’ largest shareholder.

READ MORE | The 10 Most Notable New Billionaires Of 2019

4) Harold Hamm and Sue Ann Arnall – $975 million

After three years of bitter court proceedings, oil tycoon Harold in 2015 tried to finally end his 26-year marriage with Sue Ann (no prenup) by writing her a check in the amount of $974,790,317.77 from his Morgan Stanley account. She deposited it, but then changed her mind, decided she wanted more and filed an appeal seeking a bigger share of the $13.7 billion fortune tied to Hamm’s 75% ownership in publicly traded Continental Resources. In April 2015 the Oklahoma Supreme Court ended the saga, granting Harold’s motion to dismiss her appeal, reasoning from precedent that Sue Ann had agreed to the settlement by signing and depositing the check. Sue Ann subsequently funded a political action committee that succeeded in its effort to unseat the judge who presided over the divorce.

READ MORE | More Than A Dozen European Billionaires—Linked To BMW, L’Oréal, Bosch—Have Families With Past Nazi Ties

5) Roy E. and Patricia Disney – $600 million

Roy and his wife filed for divorce in 2007 at the ages of 77 and 72, respectively, after 52 years of marriage. Roy, a nephew of Walt Disney, was worth approximately $1.3 billion at the time. Previously a Forbes 400 mainstay, he lost nearly half of his fortune in the split and was dropped from the list. In 2008, he married writer and producer Leslie DeMeuse. He died a year later; Patricia followed in 2012. A family foundation with assets of $122 million (as of 2016) bearing both of their names supports environmental and economic causes.

Compiled by Madeline Berg, Deniz Cam, Kathleen Chaykowski, Lauren Debter, Kerry A. Dolan, Alex Fang, Luisa Kroll, Chloe Sorvino and Jennifer Wang.

– Noah Kirsch; Forbes Staff

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan Rakes In $30 Million By Ditching Netflix And Betting On Himself

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Gripping a lukewarm Heineken, Jim Gaffigan hunches his six-foot-one frame over a peeling table in the green room of the An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, Ireland. Summer nights are never terribly hot in these parts, but this one is warm enough to need some air conditioning, which the theater almost never uses. It’s hardly a glamorous moment. But then again, glamour isn’t really his thing.

“There’s nothing sexy about Jim Gaffigan,” he says, sweat dotting his brow. “I’m not young. I don’t have a full head of hair. I’m out of shape. I don’t talk about having dinner with Kanye.”

Fortunately for him, he is funny. Just ask the more than 300,000 people in 15 countries who’ve paid an average of $56 to see his latest routine. For the 53-year-old father of five, it’s been a grueling schedule: more than 75 cities in the past year, including whistle-stops like Letterkenny, a northern community of 20,000 that was once lauded as the Republic’s “tidiest town.”

READ MORE | Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

They may not offer much sizzle, but places like this are the lifeblood of Gaffigan’s business. He has raked in $30 million this year, putting him at No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning stand-up comedians. Half of that was earned by putting “butts in seats.”

The rest comes from spreading his punch lines far and wide. And in this business, if those jokes are funny enough—and your reach wide enough—you can fill a lot of seats with a lot of butts. With the right distribution deal, those jokes can deliver exponential returns. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting,” Gaffigan says. “So you’d better be building a new house.”  

Gaffigan’s been building. In 2016, he agreed to partner with Netflix, the industry’s dominant force and home to original specials from all but one of the comedians on Forbes’ ranking. Last year he cut loose from the kingmaker and placed a bigger bet on himself, pairing up with Comedy Dynamics, an independent producer, to release his next special everywhere but Netflix. 

Gaffigan will star in the first original stand-up special on Amazon, which is going after the streaming giant with a push into comedy. Quality Time goes live today, and it can be shopped on the open streaming market when its exclusive run with Amazon Prime Video is up in two years. And that market is only expanding.

Gaffigan has learned a bit about home building in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth on the club circuit in the early 1990s, when HBO was the primary destination for stand-up specials and Comedy Central was a fledgling cable network.

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In 2000, he landed what was then the holy grail of comedy success—a broadcast sitcom—which was the source of the fortunes the creators of Seinfeld and Roseanne minted once they had enough seasons on the air and could sell the series into syndication.

Gaffigan’s shot proved to be short-lived, but six years later he scored a second chance and headlined a Comedy Central special called Beyond the Pale. This time it paid dividends, landing him his first theater show a month later. The butts were now coming to the seats, and while his rise was live, in person, with microphone in hand, his breakout was digital.

At the time, YouTube was changing the rules of the game, providing comedians a global platform with unprecedented distribution. Then Twitter emerged, giving comedy bookers a real-time assessment of who was attracting audiences.

READ MORE | The World’s Highest-Paid Comedians Of 2018

Then came the debut of streaming on Netflix, which latched onto comedy as a cheap and effective way to lure subscribers, while some, notably the now disgraced Louis C.K., used streaming to control their own distribution, making their shows available for fans to purchase directly.

“It was a technological wave that crashed over the stand-up world,” says Wayne Federman, a comedian and professor of the history of stand-up at the University of Southern California. “And we’re still all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Gaffigan’s first original Netflix special aired in 2017, long after the company had reshaped the industry. It was a promising place to be: Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong were propelled into superstar status through their Netflix specials, while household names like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld reportedly cashed in with $60 million (Chappelle) and $100 million (Seinfeld) paydays in exchange for long-term, multi-program deals. Gaffigan’s first special, Cinco, sold for a more modest seven-figure sum.

Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy specials for Netflix and Amazon Original
COURTESY

It was more than just a check; it was access to a potential audience of nearly 94 million. Although Netflix’s subscriber base has grown since then, so has its stand-up library. The platform now shops nearly four times the number of original stand-up specials than when Cinco debuted.

That makes it harder to stand out in the scroll. Plus, the streamer often holds onto specials in perpetuity, including Cinco. The up-front money is nice, but there is no ability to earn on the back end. 

Gaffigan used his next special, 2018’s Noble Ape, which was directed and cowritten by his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, to test the waters. Comedy Dynamics bought the rights and made it available everywhere Netflix wasn’t. It had a theatrical release and could be purchased and rented on multiple services, including  iTunes, YouTube and Walmart’s VUDU.

Later, there were short streaming windows on Comedy Central and Amazon Prime. According to Comedy Dynamics CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, it was even syndicated to planes and cruise ships. The up-front payment to Gaffigan from Comedy Dynamics was lower than at Netflix, but the wide distribution allowed him to earn on the back end, bringing in a total of $10 million, according to Forbes estimates.

READ MORE | Burna Boy’s The African Giant Debuts On The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

And new services are on the way from Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Disney, any one of which could choose to pursue cheap-to-produce and popular stand-up specials. 

Because of this widening field, stand-up specials may have more life (and revenue) in them, and that could be good for comedians looking to gamble on their success with deals that offer back-end participation. “We have titles in our library that are making more in year 12 than they made in year one,” says Volk-Weiss, whose company also owns specials by Bob Saget, Iliza Shlesinger and Janeane Garofalo.

Still, leaving Netflix means walking away from a partner that has now established itself as a formidable entertainment company. Netflix has some 180 original hour-long stand-up specials and is singularly focused on exploiting content around the world. Gaffigan, though, is content to keep the bet on himself.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting. So you’d better be building a new house.”

In the stuffy backstage room in Letterkenny, Gaffigan reviews some of the new material he tried out on stage. A joke about Ireland’s nonsensical roads killed it. He stumbled with a bit about the English. The classics played well—“My dad never went to a parent-teacher conference; my dad didn’t know I went to school.”  

And he’s well aware that Amazon’s core mission is to sell stuff, even though it has won critical acclaim for shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. With plans to deliver three more specials over the next five years, he’s got time to see just how good a partner the retailer might be. Along the way, he may decide it’s time to find a new neighborhood.

“The reason I went to Amazon is to expand my audience,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do and I don’t fully understand their marketing might. I might be pleasantly surprised. I mean, it’s a huge corporation. They could probably make more selling socks.”

-Ariel Shapiro; Forbes

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Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

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South African Comedian Trevor Noah Is The Fourth Highest Paid Comedian In The World. Here’s how he did it.


With earnings of a staggering $28 million Trevor Noah has become the fourth highest paid comedian in the world.

According to Forbes the Daily Show host, “earned the bulk of his income this year through stand-up, making him eligible for our list”.

Forbes’ methodology is using all earnings estimated from June 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019.

Burna Boy’s The African Giant Debuts On The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

“Figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers are not deducted. Earnings estimates are based on data from Pollstar Pro as well as interviews with industry insiders,” they said.

He is signed to host the Daily Show until 2022.

On the show, Noah usually sits down with the biggest headline-grabbers in politics and entertainment.

Noah also covers the biggest news stories in politics, pop culture and more.

Recently he trended after devising a viral conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump is targeting first lady Melania Trump with his immigration policies.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah currently has over 5,3 million subscribers on YouTube alone and has had 1,9 billion views.

But apart from the show, the South African born comedian made more than 70 stops across the world and had his second Netflix special last fall.

His book Born A Crime, published in 2016, is still ranked as No.1 on the New York Times’ bestseller list for paperback nonfiction.

Africans across the globe celebrated Noah’s listing on social media with some expressing how inspired they are by him.

On the Forbes list, Noah follows after Jim Gaffigan earning $30 million, Jerry Seinfeld earning $41 million and Kevin Hart being the highest earner with $59 million.

On the top ten list the only woman on the list is Amy Schumer at the seventh spot with $21 million.

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Jeff Bezos Unloads Another $990 Million Worth Of Amazon Shares In Early August

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Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos sold over 530,000 Amazon shares in the first two days of August for $990 million. After taxes, he will net an estimated $750 million in cash from the sales. 

The sales on August 1 and 2 followed $1.4 billion (after-tax) worth of Amazon stock he sold in the final three days of July. 

As the richest man on earth, Bezos is now worth an estimated $110.1 billion, using Monday’s closing share price for Amazon.

READ MORE | Jeff Bezos Sells About $1.8 Billion Worth Of Amazon Shares In Three Days

A spokesman for Amazon has not commented on the purpose for Bezos’ last stock sales. The leading theory is that it is to fund Blue Origin, a space exploration company that Bezos founded in September 2000. Bezos told journalists at a space exploration conference in 2017 that he was funding Blue Origin by selling some of his Amazon shares.

According to documents filed on Monday afternoon with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the world’s richest man sold over 530,000 shares of Amazon when the stock price was around $1,900 a share. On Monday, the stock closed at $1,765 a share.

-Angel Au-Yeung; Forbes Africa

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