Mr. Wyss, who has pledged to donate half his money to charity, has given hundreds of millions to environmental and conservation causes. Through his foundations, he has gradually increased his donations to groups that promote abortion rights, minimum wage increases and other progressive causes.
He became a member of the Democracy Alliance, a club of liberal donors, as well as the board of the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that got its start with support from Democracy Alliance donors. The think tank and its sister political group have received more than $6.1 million from foundations linked to Mr. Wyss, according to tax filings.
Mr. Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress, has also advised the Wyss Foundation, including on the hiring of The Hub Project’s executive director, Arkadi Gerney, a former official at the Center for American Progress, according to people with knowledge of the arrangement.
The Hub Project came out of the idea that Democrats should be more effective in conveying their arguments through the news media and directly to voters. Its business plan, a 21-page document prepared for the Wyss Foundation in 2015, recommended that the group “be solely funded by the Wyss Foundation at the outset” and that it would work behind the scenes to “dramatically shift the public debate and policy positions of core decision makers.” The plan added that The Hub Project “is not intended to be the public face of campaigns.”
The Hub Project is part of an opaque network managed by a Washington consulting firm, Arabella Advisors, that has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars through a daisy chain of groups supporting Democrats and progressive causes. The system of political financing, which often obscures the identities of donors, is known as dark money, and Arabella’s network is a leading vehicle for it on the left.
The Arabella network has similarities to the operation created by the Kochs. Democrats have long criticized the Kochs and others who have engaged in the hard-to-track political spending unleashed in part by the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case.
The Arabella network’s money flows through four nonprofits that serve as parent structures for a range of groups, including The Hub Project. The nonprofits then pass some of the funds along to other nonprofit groups or super PACs.
Billionaires have had a pretty good pandemic. There are more of them than there were a year ago, even as the crisis has exacerbated inequality. But scrutiny has followed these ballooning fortunes. Policymakers are debating new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. Even their philanthropy has come under increasing criticism as an exercise of power as much as generosity.
One arena in which the billionaires can still win plaudits as civic-minded saviors is buying the metropolitan daily newspaper.
The local business leader might not have seemed like such a salvation a quarter century ago, before Craigslist, Google and Facebook began divvying up newspapers’ fat ad revenues. Generally, the neighborhood billionaires are considered worth a careful look by the paper’s investigative unit. But a lot of papers don’t even have an investigative unit anymore, and the priority is survival.
This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. Paying for a few more reporters and to fix the coffee machine can earn you acclaim for a lot less effort than, say, spending two decades building the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
$680 million bid by Hansjörg Wyss, a little-known Swiss billionaire, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, for Tribune Publishing and its roster of storied broadsheets and tabloids like The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.
Should Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum succeed in snatching Tribune away from Alden Global Capital, whose bid for the company had already won the backing of Tribune’s board, the purchase will represent the latest example of a more than decade-long quest by some of America’s ultrawealthy to prop up a crumbling pillar of democracy.
If there was a signal year in this development, it came in 2013. That is when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post and the Red Sox’ owner, John Henry, bought The Boston Globe.
“I invested in The Globe because I believe deeply in the future of this great community, and The Globe should play a vital role in determining that future,” Mr. Henry wrote at the time.
led a revival of the paper to its former glory. And after a somewhat rockier start, experts said that Mr. Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners, have gone a long way toward restoring that paper as well.
Norman Pearlstine, who served as executive editor for two years after Dr. Soon-Shiong’s purchase and still serves as a senior adviser. “I don’t think that’s open to debate or dispute.”
From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a report last year showing that in the previous 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers disappeared, leaving behind what they called “news deserts.” The 2020 report was an update of a similar one from 2018, but just in those two years another 300 newspapers died, taking 6,000 journalism jobs with them.
“I don’t think anybody in the news business even has rose colored glasses anymore,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit journalism advocacy group. “They took them off a few years ago, and they don’t know where they are.”
“The advantage of a local owner who cares about the community is that they in theory can give you runway and also say, ‘Operate at break-even on a cash-flow basis and you’re good,’” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
won a prestigious Polk Award for its coverage of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.
“The communities that have papers owned by very wealthy people in general have fared much better because they stayed the course with large newsrooms,” said Ken Doctor, on hiatus as a media industry analyst to work as C.E.O. and founder of Lookout Local, which is trying to revive the local news business in smaller markets, starting in Santa Cruz, Calif. Hedge funds, by contrast, have expected as much as 20 percent of revenue a year from their properties, which can often be achieved only by stripping papers of reporters and editors for short-term gain.
Alden has made deep cuts at many of its MediaNews Group publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News. Alden argues that it is rescuing papers that might otherwise have gone out of business in the past two decades.
And a billionaire buyer is far from a panacea for the industry’s ills. “It’s not just, go find yourself a rich guy. It’s the right rich person. There are lots of people with lots of money. A lot of them shouldn’t run newspaper companies,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and the former editor of The Chicago Tribune. “Sam Zell is Exhibit A. So be careful who you ask.”
beaten a retreat from the industry. And there have even been reports that Dr. Soon-Shiong has explored a sale of The Los Angeles Times (which he has denied).
“The great fear of every billionaire is that by owning a newspaper they will become a millionaire,” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
Elizabeth Green, co-founder and chief executive at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization with 30 reporters in eight cities around the country, said that rescuing a dozen metro dailies that are “obviously shells of their former selves” was never going to be enough to turn around the local news business.
“Even these attempts are still preserving institutions that were always flawed and not leaning into the new information economy and how we all consume and learn and pay for things,” said Ms. Green, who also co-founded the American Journalism Project, which is working to create a network of nonprofit outlets.
Ms. Green is not alone in her belief that the future of American journalism lies in new forms of journalism, often as nonprofits. The American Journalism Project received funding from the Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, which also bought The Atlantic. Herbert and Marion Sandler, who built one of the country’s largest savings and loans, gave money to start ProPublica.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth of relatively small nonprofits that are now part of what I would call the philanthropic journalistic complex,” said Mr. Doctor. “The question really isn’t corporate structure, nonprofit or profit, the question is money and time.”
operating as a nonprofit.
After the cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, he set up a hybrid structure. The paper is run as a for-profit, public benefit corporation, but it belongs to a nonprofit called the Lenfest Institute. The complex structure is meant to maintain editorial independence and maximum flexibility to run as a business while also encouraging philanthropic support.
Of the $7 million that Lenfest gave to supplement The Inquirer’s revenue from subscribers and advertisers in 2020, only $2 million of it came from the institute, while the remaining $5 million came from a broad array of national, local, institutional and independent donors, said Jim Friedlich, executive director and chief executive of Lenfest.
“I think philosophically, we’ve long accepted that we have no museums or opera houses without philanthropic support,” said Ms. Lipinski. “I think journalism deserves the same consideration.”
Mr. Bainum has said he plans to establish a nonprofit group that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers if he and Mr. Wyss succeed in their bid.
“These buyers range across the political spectrum, and on the surface have little in common except their wealth,” said Mr. Friedlich. “Each seems to feel that American democracy is sailing through choppy waters, and they’ve decided to buy a newspaper instead of a yacht.”
With so many people awash in content streaming into their homes in the pandemic, brands are struggling to figure out a way to connect.
That has been particularly true in the marketing of expensive luxury goods — the type of items people like to be seen wearing and using. For the last year, the parties and the cultural and charitable events, where the wealthy can see and be seen, have not been happening.
“Why do I put on a $200,000 timepiece if I have a clock on my microwave and haven’t left my house in four months?” said Chris Olshan, global chief executive of the Luxury Marketing Council, an organization that promotes luxury brands. “What’s the value of a $10,000 Brioni suit when I’m not going out and no one is seeing it?”
He said brands were being forced to explain why a new product was worth their interest and their money. “It’s, ‘Hey, you can dive in this watch, and it has this button that if you press it we’ll come rescue you off of an island,’” he said. “It has to be more than another Swiss watch. It has to have something more to justify the value.”
dates to the 1870s, has been the leading maker of golf shoes since 1945, with a classic image akin to Audemars Piguet. But that image has been challenged with social media influencers promoting more athletic-looking golf shoes.
Max Homa, a younger professional who rose to social media prominence in the pandemic with his gently sarcastic Twitter takes on people’s golf swings.
“My brand is to take the seriousness out of golf but also play at a high level,” said Mr. Homa, 30, who won his second PGA Tour event in February at the Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles. “I want people to understand there are a lot of ways to go about it.”
The shoemaker announced on Thursday that it was also teaming with Todd Snyder, a men’s wear designer who favors camouflage and doesn’t golf but has a large social media following and can bring in different types of consumers.
“We’re contrasting Adam Scott, who’s out of central casting, and layering on someone like Max Homa,” said Ken LaRose, senior vice president of brand and consumer experience at FootJoy. “But we’re also looking for style influencers outside of the world of golf.”
cost more than $1,000, is looking at an affluent demographic of young mothers who live in cities and will be doing a lot of walking with their stroller.
“People want to see real people using our product,” said Schafer Stewart, head of marketing in the United States for Bugaboo. “We’re looking for those people who marry up with our aesthetic. We’re never paying for it.”
(Influencers, like Bruna Tenório, a Brazilian model who just had her first baby, do get free products.)
“We’ve been talking a lot about ways to market without spending one red cent,” Mr. Olshan said. “A lot of brands are panicked about doing anything. How do you engage inexpensively?”
Brands have also been helping one another, with Le Creuset, the French cookware company, promoting General Electric’s high-end appliance brand, Café, and vice versa.
“Look, if you’re buying pots and pans from me, you’re buying the oven from someone else,” Mr. Olshan said. “We’re seeing a lot of partnerships of noncompeting brands.”
In tough times, even luxury brands need to rethink their age-old strategies.
HONG KONG — Political opposition has been quashed. Free speech has been stifled. The independent court system may be next.
But while Hong Kong’s top leaders take a tougher line on the city of more than seven million people, they are courting a crucial constituency: the rich. Top officials are preparing a new tax break and other sweeteners to portray Hong Kong as the premier place in Asia to make money, despite the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly autocratic rule.
So far, the pitch is working. Cambridge Associates, a $30 billion investment fund, said in March it planned to open an office in the city. Investment managers have set up more than a hundred new companies in recent months. The Wall Street banks Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley are increasing their Hong Kong staffing.
“Hong Kong is second only to New York as the world’s billionaire city,” said Paul Chan, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, at an online gathering of finance executives this year.
erupted two years ago. At the same time, it is trying to charm the city’s financial class to keep it from moving to another business-friendly place like Singapore.
“It is a one-party state, but they are pragmatic and they don’t want to hurt business,” Fred Hu, a former chairman of Goldman’s Greater China business, said of Chinese officials.
For apolitical financial types, the changes will have little impact, said Mr. Hu, who is also the founder of the private equity firm Primavera Capital Group. “If you’re a banker or a trader, you may have political views, but you’re not a political activist,” he said.
flowed out of local Hong Kong bank accounts and into jurisdictions like Singapore.
Tensions run taut inside Hong Kong’s gleaming office towers. Even executives who are sympathetic to the government have declined to speak publicly for fear of getting caught in the political crossfire between Beijing and world capitals like Washington and London. Hong Kong’s tough rules on movement in the pandemic may also spark some expatriates to leave in the summer once school ends.
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For now, however, financial firms are doubling down on Hong Kong. Neal Horwitz, an executive recruiter in Singapore, said finance was likely to remain in Hong Kong “until the ship goes down.”
carried interest, which is typically earned by private equity investors and hedge funds. Officials had discussed the plan for years but didn’t introduce a bill until February, and it could pass in the coming months through the city’s Beijing-dominated legislature.
sparked criticism elsewhere, including in the United States. But Hong Kong fears a financial exodus without such benefits, said Maurice Tse, a finance professor at Hong Kong University’s business school.
“To keep these people around we have to give a tax benefit,” he said.
Hong Kong has also proposed a program, Wealth Management Connect, that would give mainland residents in the southern region known as the Greater Bay Area the ability to invest in Hong Kong-based hedge funds and investment firms. Officials have boasted that it would give foreign firms access to 72 million people. Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials signed an agreement in February to start a pilot program at an unspecified time.
Pandemic travel restrictions have slowed the proposal’s momentum, said King Au, the executive director of Hong Kong’s Financial Services Development Council, but it remains a top priority.
“I want to highlight how important the China market is to global investors,” Mr. Au said.
Mainland money has already helped Hong Kong look more attractive. Chinese firms largely fueled a record $52 billion haul for companies that sold new shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last year, according to Dealogic, a data provider. New offerings this year have already raised $16 billion, including $5.4 billion for Kuaishou, which operates a Chinese video app. The record start has been helped in part by Chinese companies that have been pressured by Washington to avoid raising money in the United States.
triple its hires across China, and a spokeswoman said a Hong Kong staff increase was part of that. Bank of America is adding more people in Hong Kong, while Citi has said it will hire as many as 1,700 people in Hong Kong this year alone.
hew to the party line. Still, it is considering moving some of its top executives to Hong Kong, because it will be “important to be closer to growth opportunities,” Noel Quinn, HSBC’s chief executive, said in February.
Investment funds are flocking to Hong Kong, too, after officials in August lowered regulatory barriers to setting up legal structures similar to those used in low-tax, opaque jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. Government data shows that 154 funds have been registered since then.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, and Li Zhanshu, the Communist Party’s No. 3 official, at one point owned Hong Kong property, according to a trail that can be traced partly through public records.
While officials have welcomed business, they have made clear to the financial and business worlds that they will brook no dissent. In March, Han Zheng, a Chinese vice premier, praised the stock market’s performance and the finance sector in a meeting with a political advisory group but made its limits clear.
“The signal to the business community is very simple,” said Michael Tien, a former Hong Kong lawmaker and businessman who attended the closed-door session. “Stay out of politics.”
Getting a market-rate return is something impact investors are comfortable with, but a lower return makes it harder to attract enough investors, said Trenton Allen, managing director and chief executive of Sustainable Capital Advisors. “It’s not impossible,” he said. “But you’re narrowing the number of investors you have access to.”
Traditional impact investors also argue that accepting different returns for different investments is already happening. Consider bondlike returns for fixed-income types of risk.
“Impact investing is a big tent and should be a big tent,” said Nancy Pfund, managing partner at DBL Partners, an impact venture capital fund. “The challenge is, we shouldn’t muddy the waters and think impact-first is the only kind of investment. We also don’t want to step backward and deal with biases about returns that we have spent at least 10 years fighting.”
Even those who have taken the approach agree that it is a luxury.
“If the organizing priority is impact, that’s a privilege, but you have to have a deep tolerance for risk,” said Margot Kane, chief investment officer of Spring Point Partners, which is a social venture fund created by the Berwind family of Philadelphia, whose wealth dates to 19th-century coal mining.
For anyone considering taking the middle ground, here are the two key questions: How do you determine if an investment qualifies as impact first? And since impact, not return, is the primary motivation, how do you measure it?
Let’s start with selection.
“One of the things we ask ourselves when we’re doing due diligence on one of these projects is, ‘Is this a really great catalytic investment or a very bad market-rate investment?’” said Liesel Pritzker Simmons, co-founder and principal of Blue Haven Initiative and a member of the family whose wealth derives from Hyatt hotels.
“Honestly, it tends to come down to what is the problem they’re trying to solve and is the nature of that solution super-scalable or not?” she said.
The Swiss bank also hired Mr. Wray, then a partner at King & Spalding in Washington who had served as the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division and oversaw the Enron task force. (Mr. Wray became the director of the F.B.I. three years after he negotiated the final plea deal for Credit Suisse.)
“It is a mystery to me why the U.S. government didn’t require as part of the agreement that the bank cough up some of the names of the U.S. clients with secret Swiss bank accounts,” Carl Levin, then a Michigan senator leading an investigation into offshore tax avoidance, said after the 2014 plea agreement.
In the interview, Mr. Neiman, the whistle-blower’s lawyer, said that in July 2014, after the plea deal was signed and as Credit Suisse awaited its final sentencing, he told officials at the tax division of the Justice Department and federal prosecutors who had worked on the case that his client had information that the bank had continued to cloak money held by some U.S. account holders. He gave them one name in particular — Dan Horsky, the retired business professor, who lived in Rochester, N.Y.
The tip checked out. The following year, federal agents arrested Mr. Horsky, who had amassed a $200 million fortune and hidden it with the help of Credit Suisse bankers using offshore shell companies, court documents show. The arrangement lasted for several months after the bank signed its plea deal.
It is unclear why the Justice Department did not notify the court and change the terms of its settlement with Credit Suisse based on the information from the whistle-blower — either before Credit Suisse’s final sentencing or after Mr. Horsky’s case became public. At the sentencing, lawyers for both sides told the court that they had no information to add that would affect the agreement.
Officials who would have had authority to make the decision to review the Credit Suisse case for possible breaches in 2014 and 2015 — including James Cole, who was then the deputy attorney general, and Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia — did not respond to requests for comment.
In 2015, Mr. Horsky pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. government and said that he would cooperate with prosecutors. In 2017, he was sentenced to seven months in prison. Some details of his sentencing are sealed, and a federal judge denied a request by Bloomberg News to unseal it. The judge said he denied the request after consulting with the Justice Department and Mr. Horsky’s lawyers.
Mr. Neiman’s client could be richly rewarded if prosecutors move to impose more fines on Credit Suisse. Under an I.R.S. rule, whistle blowers can get as much as 30 percent of the amount of any additional money the government gets. And, Mr. Neiman said, the whistle blower has more names of American account-holders beyond Mr. Horsky’s, although he wouldn’t say how many.
Elimination of the step-up rules could capture billions in taxes from the rich but hurt some people who do not have enormous wealth. Consider a hypothetical couple who bought their home 40 years ago for, say, $75,000, paid the mortgage, maintained the yard, made some upgrades and now find themselves with a house worth $300,000 or more. For many families, a house like that forms the basis of a modest estate to pass to heirs. Now, if heirs ever sell that house, they will be responsible only for gains above $300,000; if the step-up in basis were eliminated, they would owe taxes on any amount above the original $75,000.
The loss of a step-up in basis at death would change the calculus for real estate and any other highly appreciated asset. (Think of Apple stock bought in the 1980s, or Bitcoin from 10 years ago.)
“Most of America has their wealth concentrated in their home,” said Chris Bixby, senior wealth adviser at Mariner Wealth Advisors. “That would be subject to the step-up. I’m talking to people about gifting the house earlier to get it into their heir’s name, so the appreciation happens in their name, not yours.”
That may be a step too far for many people, who will want to retain ownership of their home.
There is also a broader equity issue.
Elimination of the step-up in basis could make it harder to bridge the racial wealth gap, said Calvin Williams Jr., chief executive and founder of Freeman Capital, a wealth management firm. He noted that the Brookings Institution has found that Black families, on average, have about one-tenth the wealth of white families — $17,150 versus $171,000. In addition, Brookings estimates that only 10 percent of Black families inherit any money, about $100,000 on average, compared with about 30 percent of white families, who receive about $200,000.
Elimination of the step-up rule would make it more difficult for Black families to pass on whatever wealth they have been able to accumulate, he said. “The fact that the inheritance gap has continued to grow, even as Black income is continuing to grow, shows just how much work needs to be done to close that gap,” he said.
It might be more equitable to create a cap on the step-up in basis that would exempt people below a certain amount of wealth, he said: A $500,000 exemption would provide relief to many middle-class families. This would be similar in spirit to another proposal under consideration by the Biden administration, an increase in capital gains taxes for people earning more than $1 million a year.
Still, the low-key response to Mr. Smith’s tax violations stands in contrast to how a scandal played out involving Leon Black, a fellow private equity billionaire and a co-founder of Apollo Global Management. After the revelation, also last fall, that Mr. Black had paid Jeffrey Epstein, the disgraced financier and registered sex offender, tens of millions of dollars for tax and estate planning services, Apollo had an outside review conducted at Mr. Black’s behest. In January, Apollo announced that Mr. Black, 69, had done nothing wrong but would step down as chief executive by this summer and introduced several corporate governance changes.
Although investors didn’t pull their money from Apollo funds, shares of the firm, which is publicly traded and much bigger than Vista, have since lagged the performance of its rivals Blackstone Group and KKR. Some Apollo investors expressed their reservations publicly. Mr. Black’s dealings also prompted calls in the art world to oust him as chairman of the Museum of Modern Art.
The scandal involving Mr. Smith raised different ethical issues for investors, since Mr. Black’s dealings were with a convicted sex offender. But another reason both Mr. Smith, 58, and Vista have appeared unscathed from the tax evasion episode is that the firm was quick to alert investors — who dislike surprises and value disclosure — that trouble was brewing.
By the time federal prosecutors said in October that Mr. Smith had engaged in a 15-year scheme to hide $200 million in income and “evade millions in taxes” through a network of offshore trusts and bank accounts, Vista’s investors had been bracing for bad news for roughly four years. The scheme came to light after a long investigation into the ties between Mr. Smith and Robert T. Brockman, a billionaire Texas businessman who helped Vista, which is based in Austin, get off the ground.
Mr. Smith, who is Vista’s chairman and chief executive, learned in the summer of 2016 that he was the subject of a criminal tax investigation involving Mr. Brockman. That fall, Vista began providing investors with periodic — if minimal — updates on the federal inquiry, five people briefed on the matter said. The firm provided at least 10 updates to investors, said a person briefed on the firm’s activities, who declined to be identified because the matters aren’t public. The person did not provide details of what those disclosures included.
For Palantir, a data analytics company that went public in September, Feb. 18 was “giraffe money” day. That was the first day that current and former employees could cash out all of their shares after the company went public.
In a Slack channel for former employees called Giraffe Money — an apparent reference to wealth that can support casual giraffe ownership — many anticipated their windfalls by sharing links, mostly in jest, to absurdly expensive home listings and boats, one former employee said.
But in reality, techies are spending in very different ways.
Instead of fine art, they are buying NFTs, or nonfungible tokens that represent ownership in pieces of digital art, memes or artifacts of internet history.
Instead of round-the-world travel, they are piling into Sprinter vans, the pandemic vacation essential. Jackie Conlin, a personal style consultant to tech executives, said she had created “van wardrobes” consisting of “comfy clothes that look put together but are oozing with laid-back vacation vibes” for clients going on road trips.
Instead of designer dresses, they are hunting for new outfits that look good on Zoom calls, virtual makeup lessons for the camera and makeovers for their Zoom backgrounds. Ms. Conlin said she redecorates a client’s Zoom room “to make whatever the other meeting attendees see look more cohesive, stylish and pleasing to the eye.” Clients are also buying weekly “comfort” gifts for friends and family like cozy blankets and robes, skin care items, pajamas, and games.
And instead of luxury condos, they are after houses with outdoor space, home gyms and good “Zoom rooms.” In San Francisco, newly rich techies are migrating from modern “white box” apartments in the neighborhood of SoMa to traditional prewar “trophy homes” in more established areas such as Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Pacific Heights and Sea Cliff, said Joel Goodrich, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Global Luxury in the city. They are excited by historic mansions with elaborate moldings and architecture.
The billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has remarried after her high-profile divorce from Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos.
In a letter posted to the website of the philanthropy nonprofit organization the Giving Pledge on Saturday, Dan Jewett, a science teacher at the prestigious Seattle school attended by her children, said that he was “grateful for the exceptional privilege it will be to partner in giving away assets with the potential to do so much good when shared.”
What might otherwise be a wholly private, personal decision, takes on unusual significance in light of the resources at Ms. Scott’s disposal — $53 billion according to Forbes’s most recent estimate — and her stated intention to give the majority of it away.
In addition to the note on the website of the Giving Pledge, Ms. Scott, a published novelist, changed her author page on the Amazon website to read, “She lives in Seattle with her four children and her husband, Dan.”
The Giving Pledge was started by the software mogul Bill Gates, his wife, Melinda, and the billionaire investor Warren Buffett in 2010. Signatories agree to give away the majority of their wealth.
For Ms. Scott, her remarriage is the latest twist in a life where she has quietly but firmly set the limits of her own privacy. Rather than remaining anonymous in her giving, she chose to announce nearly $6 billion in grants and gifts last year in a pair of posts to the site Medium.
“I’ve been calling this discreet transparency. It’s basically transparency but entirely on the givers’ own terms,” said Benjamin Soskis, a senior research associate in the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute. “It gives a simulacrum of transparency but it’s still entirely discretionary.”
Ms. Scott occupies a unique place in the world of mega-philanthropy. She does not have the decades of experience that Mr. Gates or former Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York have built up. But through the sheer speed and scale of her donations, and the way that she has given her gifts with few of the highly restrictive conditions and onerous reporting requirements that had become common, Ms. Scott managed to help shift the debate about the direction of the field.
She gave extensively to Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. chapters around the country, to food banks and historically Black colleges and universities. She made donations to organizations that support women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. equality, and efforts to fight climate change and racial inequities.
report released jointly last week by the groups Candid and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. The groups found that $4 billion of the $6 billion that Ms. Scott gave away last year could be considered pandemic response, which accounted for nearly three-quarters of Covid-19-related giving by billionaires and other high-net-worth individuals.
“She’s made a huge impact,” said Grace Sato, director of research at Candid. “The way that she gave swung the trends in what we were seeing.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported Ms. Scott’s remarriage.
Ms. Scott was married to Mr. Bezos for 25 years. They divorced in 2019 and her share of the divorce settlement was 4 percent of Amazon’s stock. While her former husband became a tabloid mainstay after their divorce, hanging out on superyachts with fellow magnates and celebrities, Ms. Scott mostly stayed out of the limelight.
In a statement, Mr. Bezos said, “Dan is such a great guy, and I’m happy and excited for the both of them.”
It is unclear when Ms. Scott and Mr. Jewett were married. She had not commented about him in any of the publicity around her giving last year. Her representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
“In a stroke of happy coincidence,” Mr. Jewett wrote in his letter posted on the page for the Giving Pledge, “I am married to one of the most generous and kind people I know — and joining her in a commitment to pass on an enormous financial wealth to serve others.”
“I don’t think it’s that surprising to me that she added her husband,” said Debra Mesch, professor at the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University. “She’s saying, ‘We’re a couple now and our household giving is going to be together.’ That’s what a lot of couples do.”
Describing himself as “a teacher for the majority my life,” Mr. Jewett noted the strangeness of a declaration of his giving intentions, “as I have never sought to gather the kind of wealth required to feel like saying such a thing would have particular meaning.” Mr. Jewett teaches at the Lakeside School, which counts Mr. Gates among its prominent alumni.
Mr. Soskis, of the Urban Institute, said that in the past the events that have shaped giving decisions tended to come late in life, centering on retirement and death, in the form of bequests. Leading philanthropists are now much younger, raising a new set of issues. Priscilla Chan and her husband, the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, cited the birth of their daughter as a motivating factor in their giving.
“The fact that giving is now happening in the prime of life means that giving decisions and giving narratives are being shaped by different life cycle events like divorce and marriage and birth in a way that hadn’t really been the case 30 or 40 years ago,” Mr. Soskis said.