Jeff Bezos pushed an unfounded theory that Saudi Arabia was behind the revelation of his affair with Lauren Sanchez – and relished how it shifted the focus away "from the more unsavory and complicated truth," a new biography claims.
In "Amazon Unbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire," author Brad Stone says there’s no "conclusive evidence" to back up suggestions by the world’s richest man and his security consultant that Saudi Arabia tipped off the National Enquirer.
The nearly 500-page book also reveals that the infamous, purported selfie of Bezos’ penis wasn’t real – and was actually grabbed by Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, from a Web site for gay escorts.
Michael Sanchez "later told FBI investigators for the Southern District of New York that he never actually had an explicit photograph of Bezos in his possession," Stone writes.
In a chapter detailing how Bezos blew up his 25-year marriage to since-remarried MacKenzie Scott, Stone notes how the billionaire "artfully suggested" in a February 2019 essay posted on Medium.com that the Saudis may have behind the Enquirer’s exclusive.
Stone says Bezos "took the already muddled question of how the paper obtained his private text messages and photographs and confused it further" by writing online that the story’s genesis was "still to be better understood" and that "the Saudi angle seems to hit a particular nerve" with the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc.
Stone also highlights an article that private-security expert Gavin de Becker — a longtime Bezos pal — penned the following month for the Daily Beast.
"Our investigators and several experts concluded with high confidence that the Saudis had access to Bezos’ phone and gained private information. As of today, it is unclear to what degree, if any, AMI was aware of the details," de Becker wrote.
But Stone claims the Enquirer actually got nine "personal" photos of Bezos from Michael Sanchez under terms of a contract worth around $200,000 – the most it ever paid for a scoop.
And Michael Sanchez allegedly got the photos from his sister, who "frequently forwarded" Bezos’ text messages to him, according to the book.
"The sibling relationship was, to put it mildly, unusual," Stone writes.
Stone says the possibility that the Saudis tipped off the Enquirer or added to what it got from Michael Sanchez was "only a fog of overlapping events, weak ties between disparate figures and more strange coincidences."
"For Bezos and his advisers, though, who were still trying to positively spin the embarrassing events surrounding his divorce, such a cloud of uncertainty was at the very least distracting from the more unsavory and complicated truth."
Meanwhile, Stone writes, the infamous penis photo wasn’t among the images that Michael Sanchez handed over to the Enquirer – although he did display it during a Nov. 21, 2018, meeting with reporter Andrea Simpson after claiming he had an explicit selfie that Bezos sent to Sanchez’s sister.
With then-AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard and editor James Robertson "watching via FaceTime from New York and recording the transaction, Sanchez didn’t show them a picture of Bezos at all but an anonymous photograph of male genitalia that he had captured from the gay escort Web site Rent.men," according to the book.
An Amazon spokesman declined to comment and de Becker didn’t return an e-mail to his eponymous, Glendale, Calif.-based security firm.
Michael Sanchez declined to comment and an email to A360 Media – which subsumed AMI in a deal last year – wasn’t returned.
A spokesperson for Howard said, "The Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has advised all parties that it has completed its investigation of allegations made by Jeff Bezos in February 2019, and has declined to prosecute the matter."
"We are glad that the government decided that Mr. Bezos’s allegations of blackmail and extortion against personnel at The National Enquirer did not merit prosecution, as we had believed it would all along," the spokesperson added.
Additional reporting by Rebecca Rosenberg.