Utah arts nonprofit Spy Hop gets a $3 million gift from MacKenzie Scott’s billions

Scott, who received 4% of Amazon stock when she divorced Jeff Bezos, aims to give it all away.

(Trent Nelson | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Kasandra VerBrugghen, Spy Hop executive director, during a dedication ceremony of Spy Hop’s new headquarters in the Central Ninth neighborhood of Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Spy Hop has received a $3 million gift from MacKenzie Scott, the philanthropist and ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Scott announced on June 15, 2021.

The Utah nonprofit Spy Hop has a new best friend: Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who gave the group a $3 million gift.

It’s the biggest single gift Spy Hop has ever received, the group said in a statement Tuesday. And it comes with no demands on how it should be used.

In the statement, Kasandra VerBrugghen, Spy Hop’s executive director, said the group was “honored by Ms. Scott’s generosity, not just to Spy Hop but to organizations like ours around the country.”

VerBrugghen called the gift “stunning,” and that it “validates the work our staff does to mentor young people to find their voice, tell their stories and create positive change in their lives and the world.”

Spy Hop is an arts education nonprofit, that teaches teens and kids how to create media — including film, video, music and computer games.

The donation, VerBrugghen said, “comes at a pivotal time for our organization, it gives us the ability to think deeply, dream big, and ultimately create a plan that will guide our organization forward.”

Scott received 4% of the total shares of the online retailer Amazon in 2019, as a settlement when she divorced Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO, The New York Times reported. Then, the stock was worth $36 billion; now, because the price has soared, her fortune is worth $60 billion — even after she’s given away more than $8 billion. She has said she eventually plans to give all of it to worthy causes.

Scott announced Tuesday, in a post on Medium, that she was donating nearly $2.74 billion in gifts to 286 “high-impact” organizations. Scott wrote that she targeted higher education institutions, groups “bridging divides through interfaith support and collaboration” to battle racial and ethnic discrimination, and arts and cultural organizations.

The gift to Spy Hop comes six weeks after the group moved into its new headquarters, the 22,000-square-foot Kahlert Youth Media Arts Center, in Salt Lake City’s Central Ninth neighborhood.