The Jeff Bezos Divorce: An American Soap Opera



Take the richest man in the world, add a mistress, some X-rated photos and blackmail. With the White House and even Saudi Arabia as the backdrop, it’s a real soap opera.

You would think that you are in one of the soap operas which Americans are so fond of. The story, while indeed convoluted, is as gripping. Let’s catch up. Last month, Jeff Bezos and his wife of 25 years, with whom he has four children, announced their divorce. The real reason, however, that they released a statement on their separation is because the National Enquirer, a New York-based tabloid, was about to reveal that Bezos was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, a television news anchor. Sanchez is married to a Hollywood talent agent and runs an aerial film company. The tabloid followed them “in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and ‘quality time’ in hidden love nests.” It also claimed to have in its possession erotic texts and selfies. Though the photos are “too explicit to print some of the messages have been released. “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon,” Bezos wrote. “I want to smell you. I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight … I want to kiss your lips … I love you.”

Hardly particularly original. Bezos is not the first billionaire to succumb to a midlife crisis and find himself making impassioned declarations of appalling sentimentality. But the Amazon boss wants to know who leaked these messages, and he has hired a detective to do so. According to the website The Daily Beast, it seems that the source would actually be the mistress’ brother, Michael Sanchez, also a talent agent. You can imagine the family atmosphere after that, especially when you take into consideration another element, that Michael Sanchez is a confirmed Trump-supporter and close to some of the president’s more controversial friends, most notably Roger Stone, who was recently indicted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference.

The Shadow of Trump?

Bezos immediately saw it as political revenge. The photos and emails had been given – would you believe – to the National Enquirer. Well, that’s not just any tabloid. The owner, David Pecker, is a long-standing friend of Trump and has admitted on several occasions to buying compromising evidence on the real estate developer’s behalf with the aim of hushing it up. For example, he facilitated the payment of $150,000 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for exclusive rights to the story of her affair with Trump. This, of course, was never published.

Trump, too, has a bone to pick with Bezos as Bezos owns The Washington Post, a daily newspaper with little affection for the current administration. So, is the White House behind the revelations about Bezos’ love life? There’s no proof of that as yet. Especially since Pecker, after his brush with the law last year over the illegal payment to McDougal, has distanced himself from Trump.

But with the publication of the Enquirer’s scoop, spread over no less than 12 pages, Trump could not resist poking fun at the Amazon boss calling him “Jeff Bozo” in a tweet. “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor (Le Point editor’s note: the National Enquirer) whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!” he wrote.

Response and Counterattack

That seemed to be the end of the scandal. But in a dramatic new turn of events, last week Bezos hit back in an extraordinary article, publicly accusing the Enquirer of attempted blackmail and extortion. It turns out American Media, the tabloid’s parent company, had underestimated the inquiry Bezos launched to determine the source of the leaks and so decided to counterattack. American Media’s lawyers, one of whom is a former Amazon executive (didn’t we tell you it was better than a TV series!), emailed Bezos, threatening him with the publication of the revealing photos of himself and Lauren Sanchez – which included a “below the belt selfie” of Mr. Amazon himself – if he did not put a stop to the investigation. They also wanted Bezos to make a statement retracting his claim that these revelations were “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

AMI should have realized that you can’t tease the richest man in the world and get away with it. Bezos dug his heels in, publishing the emails with his own commentary, saying, “Of course, I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favors, political attacks, and corruption.” In his article, Bezos once again suggests that his enemies could also be a foreign power, writing, “Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.” Khashoggi, the journalist who was dismembered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey, worked for The Washington Post. “For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos continued. Last March, AMI published a 100-page special in praise of Saudi Arabia and its leader Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a close friend of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. According to The Wall Street Journal, AMI was also looking to obtain Saudi financial backing.

The Sword of Damocles Hangs over AMI.

The media group insists it “acted lawfully” with regard to the Bezos affair. But in its statement, it says, “Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims. Upon completion of that investigation, the Board will take whatever appropriate action is necessary.” The sword of Damocles hangs over AMI. In December last year, federal prosecutors in New York came to an agreement with the media company. There would be no charges for campaign finance breaches, provided AMI cooperates in the federal investigation and does things by the book. With the Bezos revelations, has AMI violated this agreement? Prosecutors are looking into it. Meanwhile in the media, Bezos, who until recently was under scrutiny for Amazon’s aggressive business practices and its treatment of employees, has suddenly taken on the role of hero.

Some questions remain unanswered. How could Bezos, supposedly so well-versed in issues of confidentiality, be so foolhardy as to send compromising photos and messages? How did Michael Sanchez get hold of the documents, and why did he send them to the Enquirer? Why is the latter so sensitive to accusations implying “external forces”? Tune in next time to find out.

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