Update: After this article was published, an Inc.com reader contacted me to share a fascinating theory that I had completely missed. Here's the full story.

Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced the terms of their divorce via two posts on Twitter Thursday. Among the most striking things is that they both used the same single word over and over.

That word: "grateful."

Let's talk quickly first about the tone of the statements, and the fact that they reached this resolution very quickly, when it could have left a serious cloud hanging over Amazon.   

No divorce is easy. But, between the spotlight, the tabloids--and of course, the fact that Jeff Bezos of course is running Amazon and MacKenzie Bezos played a significant role in its early development--this one threatened to be a real mess.

A 25/75 split

You might remember that a month after the couple announced their plan to divorce, Jeff Bezos wrote his first-ever Medium post and accused the National Enquirer of "extortion ad blackmail."

Now we're hearing allegations that the Saudis hacked his smartphone. So, it's now remarkable that Jeff and MacKenzie seem to have resolved their differences quickly.

In short, she keeps 25 percent of their Amazon holdings, which will work out to about $35 billion and make her the world's fourth-richest woman.

He keeps the other 75 percent, plus The Washington Post and Blue Origin, and retains voting control over MacKenzie's 25 percent.

93 words (and 2 'gratefuls') each

I retyped both Jeff's and MacKenzie's statements to take a closer look at the structure. Then, I realized that they're the exact same length: 93 words each, and posted at the exact same time: 1:04 p.m. Eastern time.  

And, they both keep using the same words. Let's start with "grateful," which they each used twice.

  • Mackenzie: "Grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage with Jeff with support ... Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next."
  • Jeff: "I'm so grateful to all my friends and family ... . MacKenzie most of all. I'm grateful for her support and for her kindness in this process..."

We've all heard so many times that gratitude is the key to happiness, and so it's a striking image to create when talking about such a difficult situation.

Who wouldn't want to accentuate the positive if possible, after more than 25 years of marriage and four children?

They also both used the same phrase to describe their future relationship: "co-parents and friends," MacKenzie called it; Jeff reversed the order, saying, "friends and co-parents."

The medium makes it seem less impersonal

Both Jeff and MacKenzie are great writers. Jeff's annual Amazon letters are parsed by thousands; MacKenzie has written a couple of well-received novels.

I'm almost surprised to conclude that the wording of the statements (maybe even the matching lengths) was part of their agreement. That makes sense; it's just that posting them first on Twitter makes it all seem less impersonal.

By way of comparison, I looked up what happened in the last decade, after the former chairman of GE, Jack Welch and his second wife, Jane Beasley settled their super-contentious divorce.

"In a terse one-sentence statement," The New York Times reported then, "they said that they had settled their differences and were divorced."

I think we all probably prefer the way Jeff and MacKenzie handled it.

Here's what else I'm reading today:

Published on: Apr 4, 2019
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