This story started when Jeff Bezos tweeted, something the richest man on the planet doesn’t do very often.
Bezos — the founder, CEO and largest single shareholder of Amazon — tweets a joint statement from him and his wife, author MacKenzie Bezos. The two say they are getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage.
“After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends,” the couple write. It was the 184th time Bezos had tweeted since he started his account in 2008.
The couple, who have four children, say they look forward to continuing working together as “parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”
Later that day
Hours later, the National Enquirer has its own bombshell announcement.
The supermarket tabloid says it had been investigating Bezos for four months, tracking the Amazon CEO “across five states and 40,000 miles.” The tabloid says it has evidence that Bezos has been “whisking his mistress off to exotic destinations on his $65 million private jet.”
The Enquirer and other outlets identify the woman as Lauren Sanchez, a former anchor for Fox’s local station in Los Angeles. The Enquirer says a lawyer for Bezos told the publication that it was “widely known” that Bezos and his wife had been “long separated.”
In a statement, the magazine’s parent company, American Media Inc., suggests that its investigation had prompted Bezos to go public with his divorce plans.
“The National Enquirer has been doggedly investigating this story for four months and the extraordinary details and evidence uncovered by our team, and presented to Mr. Bezos’ representatives for comment early this week, underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has long been known for,” a spokesman says.
The Enquirer’s cover promises to show “the cheating photos that ended his marriage” with “11 pages of exclusive photos.” It also releases text messages it says were sent to Bezos by Lauren Sanchez.
Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, is a frequent target for President Donald Trump, who has criticized the newspaper for its coverage. When asked about the Bezos divorce, during a Q&A with reporters, Trump says, “I wish him luck. It’s going to be a beauty.”
President Trump tweets a shot at the Amazon CEO.
“So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor 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!”
The Daily Beast reports that Bezos is investigating “how his text messages ended up in The National Enquirer.” The Beast says “the inquiry is increasingly convinced that political motives are behind the disclosure.”
The Beast follows up. It reports that Gavin de Becker, a private security consultant Bezos says he retained to investigate “the facts in this matter,” had “scrutinized” Michael Sanchez, Lauren Sanchez’s brother, who is connected to a number of associates of President Donald Trump. (Michael Sanchez did not respond to requests for comment. He told the Washington Post that he did not play a role in the revelation of the affair.)
The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos, publishes an article headlined “Was tabloid exposé of Bezos affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job?”
The story reports that de Becker says he believes the Enquirer’s reporting about Bezos was sparked by a “politically motivated” leak. The Post further reports that Michael Sanchez “firmly denies playing any role in the revelation of his sister’s affair.”
Jeff Bezos, in another rare tweet, tells the world he has blogged. “I’ve written a post about developments with the National Enquirer and its parent company, AMI,” he writes.
In a 2,000-word post on Medium, Bezos accuses AMI of trying to extort him. He reveals what he says are the full text of some of the emails his representatives got from executives at AMI threatening “extortion and blackmail.”
“Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing,” Bezos writes. “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.”
American Media, in a statement, says it “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos” but adds that it will investigate: “Further, at the time of the recent allegations made by Mr. Bezos, it was in good faith negotiations to resolve all matters with him. 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.”
Separately, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN that federal prosecutors in New York are reviewing the Enquirer’s handling of its Bezos reporting to determine if the company may have violated a cooperation deal reached with prosecutors last year. The government announced in December that it had struck a non-prosecution agreement with American Media.
– CNN’s Evan Perez and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.