The Jeff Bezos-National Enquirer Scandal, Explained

(Bloomberg) -- It’s a made-for-tabloid-news scandal and then some, involving the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, and one of America’s most notorious publications, with links thrown in to President Donald Trump and the Saudi royal family, plus the most expensive divorce in history and -- what else -- sexual selfies.

Bezos and the Blog

In a blog post on Feb. 7, Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos alleged that the publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., tried to blackmail him with embarrassing photos of himself and a woman who wasn’t his wife. It was the Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, that, on its front page in January, said Bezos had been “caught cheating on his wife of 25 years with the spouse of a Hollywood mogul!” -- a former TV anchor named Lauren Sanchez. As Bezos told it, the Enquirer was threatening to release the photos unless he stopped pursuing his own investigation into whether the tabloid had a political motivation to report on him.

Some suspect a political agenda because of ...

AMI’s Connections to Trump

AMI CEO David Pecker is an old friend of the president. Under a deal with federal prosecutors reached in September, AMI admitted working with Trump’s 2016 election campaign to kill stories “about the presidential candidate’s relationships with women.” According to the deal, Pecker agreed to identify any damaging information about Trump that came his way and suppress it by buying the stories and not publishing them -- a practice known as “catch and kill.”

Bezos raised the notion that the Enquirer targeted him because of ...

Trump’s Complaints About Amazon and the Post

Trump has repeatedly criticized Bezos; Amazon, the giant e-retailer he founded; and the Washington Post, which he bought in 2013. The president has accused the newspaper, which has consistently criticized Trump in its editorials and covered a string of stories that were embarrassing for him, of printing “fake news” and says Bezos uses it as an “expensive lobbyist” for Amazon. Trump claims Amazon is draining the U.S. postal service of money it can’t afford to lose. (Amazon employs the postal service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, under a contract that’s been kept confidential.)

Trump and AMI might have both been unhappy with the Post over its coverage of ...

The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Bezos wrote in his blog post that the Washington Post’s “unrelenting coverage” of the murder of its columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, is “undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.” Khashoggi, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, was a leading critic of the country’s de factor ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Trump regards as an important ally. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by people close to the crown prince at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, and U.S. lawmakers say intelligence indicates that the crown prince was involved in the murder. Saudi Arabia denies that, and Trump has sought to play down the kingdom’s responsibility for the killing. Meantime, the New York Times has reported that Pecker has used his connections with Trump to cultivate ties with Prince Mohammed and other influential Saudis, in pursuit of business opportunities in Saudi Arabia. Last year, AMI published a flattering 97-page tribute to Saudi Arabia with the prince on the cover for sale at Walmart stores and supermarkets.

All of this is adding fodder to what was already going to be ...

The World’s Most Expensive Divorce

Bezos and wife MacKenzie announced their intention to divorce in a tweet Jan. 9, hours before the Enquirer began tweeting that it planned to publish an expose about the split. The Enquirer and the New York Post later reported that Jeff Bezos had been having a relationship with Sanchez, the wife of Hollywood talent agent Patrick Whitesell. The New York Post said Sanchez and Whitesell are separated. If the Bezoses split their fortune equally, it could leave MacKenzie, 48, with $67 billion, making her the world’s richest woman. It could also make Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, currently worth $96 billion, the planet’s richest person once again. Bezos eclipsed Gates in October 2017.

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