World’s richest man ‘blackmailed’ over affair
THE world's richest man has accused an American newspaper tabloid of "extortion and blackmail" after it threatened to publish revealing photos of him.
Billionaire Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos claims the National Inquirer planned to release the private photos and messages because he was investigating how the tabloid obtained them.
After the tabloid published an explosive story about his extramarital affair last month, Mr Bezos hired a team of private investigators. He wanted the investiagors to get to the bottom of how the Enquirer obtained lurid texts between him and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
Since then, there has been a bitter public relations battle waged in the media.
Mr Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc. (AMI) - the parent company of the National Inquirer - in an extraordinary blog post today.
Earlier this week the tabloid's editor Dylan Howard emailed a lawyer for Mr Bezos in order to describe photos the Enquirer "obtained during our newsgathering."
Mr Bezos published the email in the blog post today, in what he said was an effort to stand up to the blackmailing attempt.
The photos include a "below the belt selfie" of the Amazon CEO, photos of him in tight boxer-briefs and wearing only a towel, and several revealing photos of Ms Sanchez including her "simulating a sex act" with a cigar, according to the email.
"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," Mr Bezos wrote.
Last month, the Enquirer reported that Mr Bezos sent "sleazy text messages and gushing love notes" to Ms Sanchez, months before Mr Bezos announced he was splitting up with his wife, MacKenzie.
According to the emails, an attorney for AMI offered a deal earlier this week: The tabloid wouldn't post the photos if Mr Bezos and his investigators would release a public statement "affirming that they have no knowledge or basis" to suggest that the Enquirer's coverage was "politically motivated or influenced by political forces".
Previous reports revealed that Mr Bezos suspected US President Donald Trump had a hand in leaking his salacious private text messages.
The National Enquirer has a long and chequered past with Mr Trump and the Amazon boss didn't pull any punches, accusing the company and its chief executive David Pecker of doing the personal bidding of the Trump administration.
"Federal investigators and legitimate media have of course suspected and proved that Mr Pecker has used the Enquirer and AMI for political reasons," he wrote.
Reporters for the Enquirer followed Mr Bezos and Ms Sanchez "across five states and 40,000 miles" and "tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and 'quality time' in hidden love nests," the tabloid said in its story.
The January 9 story carried the bylines of Howard and two reporters.
An attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.