Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s glowing recommendation of MacKenzie Scott secured the writer a job working with her now-former husband, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Scott, 52, studied creative writing under Morrison, 91, while she attended Princeton University in the early 1990s.
The writer and philanthropist, whose estimated net worth is around $50billion, was struggling to make ends meet as a waitress in New York City when she was offered a position at a hedge fund where Bezos, a Princeton alum, was working.
Shortly after her interview with Bezos, Scott was offered a position at D. E. Shaw. She started working at the hedge fund in September 1992, landing the office next to the future founder of Amazon.
Bezos, 58, had hired her ‘based largely on a transcript of your phone recommendation,’ Scott wrote in a letter to Morrison shortly afterwards, The New York Times reported in an expose published Sunday.
The newspaper acquired multiple letters between the pair from Morrison’s archive at the Princeton University library.
It remains unknown exactly what Morrison, who served as Scott’s mentor and helped her become a novelist, said during her phone call with Bezos – though she’s previously praised Scott as an ‘extraordinary writer, almost full-blown.’
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison’s glowing recommendation of MacKenzie Scott secured the writer a job working for her now-former husband, Jeff Bezos. Scott and Bezos are pictured above in February 2017
Shown left to right, MacKenzie Scott, Toni Morrison, Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University (who helped recruit Morrison to Princeton) and Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber are pictured at Princeton’s dedication of Morrison Hall in Nov. 2017
Scott, then 23, quickly settled into a routine at D. E. Shaw, finding a balance between working and writing.
‘I’m finding I have much time to write, all in the early morning, which probably displeases the accountant who lives below me although I recently invested in a rug to muffle my 5 a.m. trips to the kitchen for coffee,’ she wrote to Morrison at the time.
Her relationship with Bezos, then 29, also swiftly transitioned from professional to romantic as the pair worked together.
Scott, who claims she fell for his ‘famously booming laugh,’ reportedly pursued a relationship with Bezos. The pair were engaged after just three months of dating and married after six.
‘He edited what was my first and, happily, last piece of financial marketing literature, and after our wedding I started working full time on a novel,’ Scott wrote of Bezos in another letter to Morrison.
Shortly after she dedicated herself to writing, Bezos would quit his job at D. E. Shaw to begin selling books online – a platform that would later become the modern-day ecommerce giant Amazon.
Bezos hired Scott to work with him at a NYC-based hedge fund in 1992. A letter Scott wrote to Morrison (pictured in Oct. 2003) at the time revealed the future Amazon founder hired her ‘based largely on a transcript of your phone recommendation’
The couple left New York and relocated to a rental property in Bellevue, Washington, which neighbors Seattle. Amazon was founded in their garage in 1994.
Scott continued to update her mentor on the status of their endeavors.
‘The new news is that last July Jeff and I moved from New York to Seattle, where I’ve spent most of my time helping him start a business selling books over the Internet,’ she wrote Morrison in 1995.
‘Our customers can browse an electronic catalog of 1.4 million titles by author, title, subject, and keywords and place orders via computer. It’s an interesting business, and, on the whole, having a part-time job has been good for my writing.’
Scott, who recognized Amazon as her husband’s dream, supported him from the start and work alongside him to build the online retailer.
‘I’m not a businessperson, but to me what I am hearing when he tells that idea is the passion and the excitement,’ she recalled of Bezos’ idea.
However, she kept a focus on her own ambitions and goal to author a novel.
Scott attended writing workshops at the University of Washington and continued to submit drafts of her work to Morrison, who eventually would connect her with an agent.
She also left Amazon to focus on her writing full-time, making appearances at company and events and parties. Bezos, in multiple interviews, recalled finding Scott writing in hotel bathrooms while they traveled.
The writer completed a draft of her first novel in 2000, shortly before the birth of her first child. Morrison would offer feedback and support throughout the entire revision process.
‘You should know that I don’t feel I got there,’ Scott wrote to Morrison at the time. ‘But I do feel I got to a point well-suited to some perspective-fostering maternity leave and a dose of serious criticism from willing readers.’
Her mentor replied: ‘As you revise, I am at your service if, and only if, you want me to be.’
Morrison provided Scott with three pages of suggested edits for her manuscript, noting she was ‘glad not to have to line edit for a living anymore’.
‘But then, then … there’s a writer out there named MacKenzie and the profound pleasure of editing comes rushing back,’ Morrison added.
Scott’s first book, The Testing of Luther Albright, was published in 2005 after nearly a decade’s worth of work.
Bezos and Scott (pictured in 2018) married six months after they started dating. Soon after their wedding Scott quit her job at the hedge fund to focus on her writing. Her plans slightly changed after the couple moved to Washington in 1994 and launched Amazon
Scott, now a successful novelist and billionaire philanthropist, did not always have a life of luxury and prestige.
She came from a privileged family and attended secondary school The Hotchkiss School, a private boarding school in Connecticut, but was forced to graduate early after her father’s financial firm declared bankruptcy.
Her parents also personally filed for bankruptcy making it impossible for Scott to attend Hotchkiss, where tuition prices mirrored that of a university, for her senior year.
She took on extra coursework, including a fictional-writing seminar course that was arranged by the English department head to ensure she would meet the institution’s four-year English requirement.
She graduated in 1987, with her yearbook indicating she was ‘bound for England’ while her classmates specified their collegiate choices.
Scott also wrote a message to her would-be graduating class that read: ‘Class of ’88: I’ll miss being with you. Make the most of the year, and look twice before you leave. There is so much there to see.’
Margot Bass, one of Scott’s classmates, said the school knew Scott and her family were struggling but failed to offer her support amid the ‘traumatic’ experience.
‘One thing I regret is the Hotchkiss community did not rally to support her,’ Bass told the Times. ‘I didn’t even know what to make of it. I was young, and I didn’t know how you support somebody whose family is going through a hard time.’
After the couple founded and launched Amazon, Scott dedicated her time to writing a novel. Morrison helped Scott with its publication, acting as an editor and mentor. She also connected Scott with an agent (Morrison, Scott, Simmons and Eisgruber are pictured in 2017)
Morrison (pictured in 2010) also taught Scott during her time at Princeton University and served as her thesis adviser. Morrison has called Scott an ‘extraordinary writer, almost full-blown’
Scott was eventually offered a scholarship to Princeton – where she studied under Morrison – and worked multiple jobs to sustain herself.
‘I went off to college knowing I was going to have to work a variety of jobs to put myself through school,’ the now-billionaire recalled.
Unfortunately, Scott still struggled to stay afloat, noting there was a period of time when she had to accept help from members of the community to maintain her enrollment at the ivy league university.
‘It was the college roommate who found me crying, and acted on her urge to loan me a thousand dollars to keep me from having to drop out sophomore year,’ she said. ‘It was the local dentist who offered me free dental work when he saw me securing a broken tooth with denture glue in college.’
While her collegiate experience was a period of difficulty for Scott, it was also an ‘intellectually rewarding’ time.
‘This writer that I admired so much also turned out to be such a gifted and devoted teacher,’ she said after achieving her goal to become one of Morrison’s pupils in the university’s highly competitive writing program. ‘She has given me a real example of a life of passionate devotion to more than one calling.’
Morrison also served as Scott’s thesis adviser, helping her with her 168-page work of fiction, The Fathering Water, which was seemingly loosely inspired by her own family’s financial downfall.
The piece would later become the basis of Scott’s first novel.
After graduating from Princeton, Scott returned to Hotchkiss to teach summer creative writing program and then moved to New York City to pursue her writing dreams.
She resided in an apartment belonging to the family of Bass, her former Hotchkiss classmate, while she juggled between waitressing and writing.
Scott found waitressing hard and was struggling with her novel, which prompted her to apply for the job at D. E. Shaw which unknowingly would change her life.
‘I wasn’t quite ready to write a book. Truthfully it wasn’t going that well and I was having a lot of trouble making ends meet,’ she said, describing that time in her life.
‘Would I have ever considered a job in finance if I hadn’t been having those difficulties?’ she asked. ‘Probably not.’
Scott (pictured in March 2022) is now worth approximately $50billion. However, she wasn’t always well-off. The writer graduated high school early after her parents filed for bankruptcy and couldn’t afford her tuition. She also worked to put herself through college and was waitressing during the early stages of her writing career to make ends meet
Scott, whose marriage to Bezos dissolved in 2019, has dedicated herself to charity and promised to continue issuing grants and making donations ‘until the safe is empty’. Scott has given away approximately 18 percent of her fortune while Bezos has donated 1 percent. The pair are pictured together in July 2013
Accepting the position at D. E. Shaw spearheaded Scott’s career, which includes a library of more than two dozen published novels and more than $12billion in charitable giving.
She has also dedicated herself to philanthropy, having announced grants totaling at $6.6billion last year alone.
Scott, whose marriage to Bezos dissolved in 2019, has promised to continue issuing grants and making donations ‘until the safe is empty’.
A currently operates Lost Horse, a shell company that was set up a few months after her divorce from Bezos.
The company works with nonprofit organizations across the U.S., offering donations and resources to help achieve their goals and mission.
Lost Horse has provided gifts to 1,257 charities ranging from little-known organizations to mainstream groups like Habitat for Humanity, which received a $436million donation from the company last month. This is believed to be Scott’s largest gift.
Before their divorce, Scott and Bezos made numerous charitable donations as a couple, however the writer’s overall charitable donations far surpass that of her ex-husband – the second richest person in the world.
Scott, according to a February article published in Vanity Fair, has given away approximately 18 percent of her fortune while Bezos has donated 1 percent.
Bezos, last year pledged a $10billion donation to combat climate change. As of February, he had paid $2.1billion of so far.