When Jeff Bezos fought National Enquirer over the exhibits of his privacy, he had a simple message to his top lieutenants: Stop Feeding Coverage. Stop answering the journalist's questions. Stop engaging with the media even if you are trying to correct a bad story.
This order came as the Amazon founder thought he had tangible evidence that the table in the supermarket was willing to observe a ceasefire. It was then that Bezo's authorized discussions with his opponents about the nightmare that began when the paper revealed his affair with Lauren Sanchez.
These talks reached the point that the interrogator's parent company, American Media Inc., was very confident of reaching a written agreement that would satisfy both sides concerns, according to sources familiar with the process. But it wasn't Bezos view at all. Hours later he blew up the conversations by accusing the Inquirer of detesting him over intimate images and text messages.
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The private talks cast the billionaire's responsibility for extortion in a slightly different light, so that people on both sides of the bitter battle were convinced that he had successfully lured the tabloid company into a trap.
After the original Enquirer story in Early January, Bezos had an overall goal. It was stopping the Chinese water torture of embarrassing images and texts about his relationship with Sanchez, a Los Angeles television personality, who set off a divorce from his MacKenzie wife. The sources say there were dozens of sexually explicit texts, along with the images, that the Enquirer had withheld.
Executives at American Media were told that Bezos was worried that his reputation as a technological titan could be damaged by past stories. After all, Amazon promised its customers online security, and yet Bezos had messages and pictures leaked and possibly hacked. (The latter theory is largely discounted since the images have been found not to have come from Lauren's brother, Michael Sanchez, who called such rumors "1
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The movement towards the back-stage negotiations began with a stylish understanding.  The Bezos team offered to play ball with another AMI publication, Weekly, for a story that would paint the couple exposed by the Enquirer in a more sympathetic light. A "source" given by the team decorated such sympathetic quotes as "Jeff and Lauren are together. They are serious about each other. This was not a one-off event. This is a relationship that has been going on for months." AMI was able to push for quotes with more emotions.
Bezos side, using Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent manager, as a middleman, also arranged paparazzi photos of Lauren Sanchez, a pilot, going to her office at Santa Monica airport and boarding a helicopter.
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Bezos wanted something in return.
] His site was convinced, based on conversations with someone at AMI, that Enquirer planned two sealing stories on Jeff and Lauren to follow up on the first 12-page spread. A source near AMI said there was no plan for further coverage stories on the couple, which would be a marketing decision, but that was what Bezos feared, along with the steady outcome of goods on the Enquirer's website.
Days before the next week's release was scheduled to be published, the Bezos team was able to obtain a PDF of the next Enquirer cover. It was about George Clooney's wife Amal, who apparently moved out on him.
This was a violation of the Enquirer's regular security, that someone on the Bezos team asked an AMI leader if the cover was genuine or false. The CEO was surprised when evidence that Bezos & # 39; people had the front cover. Some of those involved believe that the leak came from David Pecker, AMI's owner. The company nectar that Pecker provided for pre-publication coverage to some.
But that leak – along with Enquirer's sudden stop in publishing some Bezos texts – convinced the billionaire that his strategy was working.
In fact, when reporters called for a rumor that Bezos and Lauren Sanchez would make their first public appearance on the Oscar, the CEO was pleased that the Amazon PR department had refused to comment on the false story.
Someone in Bezos' inner circle rejects the term "Negotiations" since they see themselves as simply answering extortion threats. Still, detailed information from the nearest processes clearly indicates that there was a steady stream of phone calls, emails and texts about the disputed issues, including a phone call that lasted 90 minutes.
Both parties played hardball.
The Bezos team insisted that AMI stop using leaks to lubricate Gavin de Becker, Bezos & # 39; long-term security consultant, by suggesting that the violation of explicit images and texts reflects an error on his part. AMI was sent legal warnings and demanded that such behavior stop.
For his part, AMI wanted Becker to recognize that his internal investigation had not discovered any evidence that the Enquirer story was rooted in national policy. The company considered it defamatory for Bezos since to propose, which made its second high-profile property, the Washington Post, that her story was a politically motivated hit job. Pecker is a close friend of President Trump, who has repeatedly lambasted Bezos and what he calls the "Amazon Washington Post."
In fact, the sources say that Bezos never intended to give the tabloid company what it wanted, which was a public statement declaring that the Enquirer stories, as an AMI letter, say it was "not created or dictated by external forces, political or otherwise. "
Legal letters were also sent on behalf of Bezos, demanding that none of his images or text messages be published beyond what was already published.
During this time, Bezos muslimed with his confidants, including his girlfriend, about the possibility of buying American media, closing the author and remedying their health and training titles. This can be presented as a striking blow to good journalism. There were even numbers thrown around, $ 1 billion or more before they concluded the move was too risky.
AMI had a strong motivation to settle down. Pecker and the company had recently concluded an immunity agreement with federal prosecutors over their role in arranging hush-money payments during the campaign of two women accusing Trump of extramarital affairs. Under the terms, any offense may cause prosecutors to revoke that immunity.
Bezos was also motivated. He not only wanted the relief of even the threat of naked pictures and steaming texts that were published, he would not mention any tensions with his dying biological father.
The Amazon boss followed close talks, when his lawyers would sometimes ask for more time to consult with him if he was not available.
AMI, as chieftain, Dylan Howard, handled much of the negotiations, arguing during the talks that it was not involved in extortion. When asked, the company refused to say that it would definitely publish the explicit Bezos material if no agreement was reached, only that it reserved the right to do so.
5. February said the sources said AMI sent two important letters after the Bezos team suggested the company submitted a proposal and they would respond.
The first letter was from an AMI lawyer who outlined a 7-point contract.
The second letter was from Howard, which graphically depicts pictures they had received from Bezos, some of them "under-belt selfies" and Lauren Sanchez. The problem was that this read as a threatening letter.
When reporters called for a rumor that Bezos and Lauren Sanchez would make their first public appearance on the Oscar, the CEO was pleased that the Amazon PR department had refused to comment on the fake story
The reason for this catalog is, according to AMI, Bezos wanted to know what action he would have if Enquirer violated the deal. The two sides discussed even if a mediator would resolve any breach claims and whether it would take place in New York or California.
The conversation and the messages continued throughout the afternoon of 7 February. But that night, Bezos charged AMI with extortion in an explosive blog post on medium, including the two AMI letters as evidence.
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Even managers at AMI had to admit that there was a sharp publicity move. Bezos won praise for rejecting Enquirer and changing the subject from his personal life to hard tabloid tactics. AMI leaders felt they had decorated the letter as part of the negotiations and were burned.
The downside to Bezos was that the messy play broke back to the news, just as history seemed to fade. None of the pages will comment on the post.
Someone in the Bezos team now hopes that the media spotlight will turn to their divorce, given that the final settlement will make MacKenzie Bezos the world's richest woman and could have a significant impact on Amazon. At least it would shift public focus away from affair. They were happy when they told that MacKenzie bought an apartment in New York worth at least $ 25 million and thought she was moving.
For the evidence that triggered the blackmail, it will probably never see the light of day. Bezos and his advisors believe that AMI leaders would have great legal responsibility by running images without copyright, and no doubt is not newsworthy since the story is already out. The AMI team, still sensitive to any breach that could eradicate the immunity agreement, wants history to disappear silently.
However, as the federal prosecutors and AMI's own board consider the situation, it may be desirable.