Jeff Bezos’ romantic texts messages to girlfriend Lauren Sanchez were leaked to the National Enquirer by her brother for $200,000, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.
In an unusual deal, Michael Sanchez handed over the messages in return for the that which he received in full, upfront last year, according to WSJ. His contract with the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc. (AMI), also gave him the right to shop the information elsewhere if the company didn’t run with the story after one month, the WSJ reported.
Reps for AMI declined to comment. Reps for Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a statement to TheWrap, Michael Sanchez called the WSJ reporting “disappointing” and refused to “dignify” the allegations.
As with the WSJ, Sanchez did not explicitly deny sending incriminating content relating to the Amazon boss to the Enquirer.
“WSJ’s report on old rumors from ‘anonymous’ sources is disappointing. I didn’t dignify the rumors last month and I’m not going to dignify them now,” he said in a statement on Tuesday that mostly sidestepped the substance of the Journal’s reporting.
“Two key facts remain the same: 1) Everything I’ve done since the day I met Bezos protected his extramarital affair from Gavin de Becker, and 2)I never had access to the penis selfies which are the heart of criminal allegations against Dylan Howard, a desperate man I sincerely believe attempted to brazenly blackmail Jeff Bezos,” he said.
The deal with Michael Sanchez also caused a row with American Media’s chief legal counsel for media Cameron Stracher, who was terminated from the company after AMI boss David Pecker told him he was displeased by the upfront payment, the WSJ reported.
In February, Bezos exploded the story into the public light with an extraordinary post on Medium, admitting that he had sent lewd photos, while also accusing American Media of trying to blackmail and extort him into making false claims about Pecker’s company.
“In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we ‘have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces,'” Bezos wrote. “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,”
In the same post, he proceeded to publish a series of emails from National Enquirer editor-in-chief Dylan Howard.
In the weeks before the WSJ story, rumors had swirled as to how AMI had obtained the photos including the possibility that Saudi Arabia or even President Trump (a close Pecker ally) might have been involved.