Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com Inc, has accused the owner of the National Enquirer of trying to blackmail him with the threat of publishing "intimate photos" he allegedly sent to his girlfriend unless he said in public that the supermarket tabloid's reporting on him was not politically motivated.
The National Enquirer published a story last month that included lurid texts between Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. He launched an investigation into how private text messages between him and Lauren were obtained by the magazine and "to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer".
Bezos declined to do so.
Bezos says the Enquirer's parent company tried to get him to agree to a deal for the tabloid not to publish the explicit photos.
Bezos wrote that this week, the tabloid's editor, Dylan Howard, emailed an attorney for Bezos' longtime security consultant to describe photos the Enquirer "obtained during our newsgathering". "Dylan Howard stands ready to discuss the matter at your convenience", Bezos claims was stated in a letter sent to him from the Enquirer. "And if you don't do X quickly, I will report the embarrassing information".
Bezos, who owns more than $120 billion in Amazon stock, said in his blog: "If in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"
Mr Bezos' online post details a stunning and freakish clash between the world's richest man and the nation's biggest tabloid publisher.
"Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've chose to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten", Bezos wrote in the post, which was entitled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker" and included copies of emails from AMI.
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On Feb. 5, The Post reported that Bezos and de Becker suspected that the source of the text and photo leaks may have been Sanchez's brother, Michael, a California public relations executive who is close to Pecker and various figures in Trump's orbit, including former campaign advisers Roger Stone and Carter Page.
AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, is led by David Pecker.
Early in the blog post, Mr Bezos mentions AMI's links to President Donald Trump.
AMI did not immediately return a request for comment.
What it comes down to is that Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, has claimed their investigation was "politically motivated". Cohen pleaded guilty to several federal crimes and admitted that he had made a deal, on Trump's behalf, in which the Enquirer helped Trump's presidential bid by paying $150,000 U.S. to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal to buy and bury her story.
It does not appear that AMI demanded any money from Bezos - only that he call off his investigation and issue a statement saying the coverage wasn't political.
Hours later, the first Enquirer story on his relationship with Sanchez posted online.
In his post, Bezos explained why he is speaking out against the Enquirer and American Media.
"It shows how complicated and risky it is to make an agreement with National Enquirer", Levenson said.