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.
After the tabloid published a story about his extramarital affair last month, Mr. Bezos ordered a team of private investigators to get to the bottom of how the Enquirer obtained risque texts between the executive and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
Bezos declined to do so. In exchange for a promise to not publish embarrassing photos obtained from his text messages, AMI's general counsel Jon Fine asked for Bezos and his lawyer for a statement "affirming that they have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AM's coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces".
However, in the interests of expediating this situation, and with The Washington Post poised to publish unsubstantiated rumors of The National Enquirer's initial report, I wanted to describe to you the photos 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. "I hope common sense can prevail - and quickly".
Bezos, who owns more than $120 billion in Amazon stock, continued, "If in my position I can't stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?"
The blog post is the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has brought the personal life of Bezos, the richest person in the world, into the spotlight.
"Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail", wrote Mr Bezos, "I've chose to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten".
In its January 9 story, 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.
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His personal investigators, led by his longtime security consultant, Gavin de Becker, concluded that Bezos' phone wasn't hacked.
A Fox News request for comment from AMI was not immediately returned. The company has been cooperating with investigators in the Southern District of NY ever since it admitted to making a $150,000 "catch-and-kill" payment to rid of a story about an alleged affair Trump had with former Playboy model Karen McDougal.
That admission was part of a deal between AMI and federal prosecutors, who agreed to not pursue charges against the company for secretly assisting Trump's campaign by paying $150,000 United States to a Playboy model for the rights to her story about an alleged affair with the then-candidate.
AMI has yet to respond to queries on the matter, Bloomberg reported.
What it comes down to is that Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, has claimed their investigation was "politically motivated".
· Mr Bezos face selfie at what appears to be a business meeting.
Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice, said Bezos' allegations, if accurate, could have serious consequences for both prosecutors and AMI.
Hours later, the first Enquirer story on his relationship with Sanchez posted online. As chairman of American Media Inc., Pecker played a part in making the payments to former porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, both of which prosecutors believe may have violated campaign finance law, according to The New York Times. Or at least that's what the top people at the National Enquirer thought.