Who is David Pecker? The Jeff Bezos hacking scandal raises questions about whether the media executive received dirt from the Saudis.

American Media, Inc CEO David Pecker is pictured in 2014. Marion Curtis via AP
  • In multiple reports on Tuesday, it was alleged that the Saudis were behind the hack of Jeff Bezos’ phone in 2018.
  • Eight months later, the National Enquirer published text message conversations and personal photos confirming Bezos had an extramarital affair.
  • The new reports raise questions about whether the private messages obtained by the National Enquirer were given to them by the Saudis.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was responsible for hacking Jeff Bezos’s phone in 2018, according to UN investigators and a forensic report from FTI Consulting.

The revelations this week add a new layer to the saga of the Amazon CEO, who became tabloid fodder last year when the National Enquirer exposed details about his extramarital affair based on highly-personal text messages and photos.

The new reports raise questions about whether the National Enquirer’s then-owner, American Media, Inc. (AMI), conspired with the Saudis to get dirt on Bezos, though they both deny cooperating on the story.

It also raises questions about AMI’s publisher, David Pecker.

Pecker has been friends with President Donald Trump for decades. And not only does AMI’s publications have a history of pro-Trump stories, but Pecker himself also came under investigation for allegedly paying off women claiming to be Trump’s mistresses in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Trump himself views Bezos as an enemy because he owns the Washington Post, which has published accurate stories about his administration that he calls “fake news.”

Continue to read more about Pecker’s rise to publishing baron and his well-documented connections to the president.

David Pecker was born in 1951 in the Bronx, New York. The son of a bricklayer attended Pace University. After graduating, he got an accounting job at Price Waterhouse.

David Pecker is pictured in March 1995, when he was chairman and CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media. Karjean Levine/Getty

The Guardian

His first introduction to the magazine industry came in 1979 when he got an accounting job in CBS’ magazine division, and he quickly moved up the corporate ladder. A few years after the division was sold to Hachette, he became CEO.

David Pecker is pictured with his wife Karen and three Playboy bunnies in 2010. Joe Kohen/Getty Images for American Media, Inc.

The Guardian

Pecker first started working with Donald Trump in the late 1990s, when he started a new branch at Hachette dedicated to making magazines for clients. “Trump Style” was among the titles he created and helped cement Trump’s celebrity.

Around this time Pecker also launched ‘George,’ a magazine founded by John F. Kennedy Jr. BOB STRONG/AFP via Getty Images

Their relationship grew over the years with Pecker frequently visiting Mar-a-Lago and flying on Trump’s private planes.

In 2013, Trump took to Twitter to write a slew of fawning tweets about Pecker, saying he should be put in charge of “Time” magazine.

He took over American Media, Inc. in 1999 as its CEO. The company’s chief publication, the National Enquirer, made headlines when a staff photographer died from anthrax exposure in a mailing scare after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

An unidentified worker in a biohazard suit hands off a bag to a worker after exiting the American Media Inc, building on Saturday, August 31, 2002, in Boca Raton, Florida. Steve Mitchell/AP

Anthrax was found in AMI’s Boca Raton, Florida offices and Pecker led the charge in representing the company in public appearances with federal investigators.

One of the tabloid’s other notable political stories was its exhaustive investigation and original coverage of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter months before Edwards admitted he had fathered a child with Hunter.

Though his political donation history doesn’t indicate any strong favour for either party, Pecker’s relationship with Trump continued to pop up in coverage that furthered Trump’s political interests.

The National Enquirer is on display at a South Carolina supermarket in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, on September 14, 2016. Andrew Lichtenstein/ Corbis via Getty Images

During the 2016 presidential election, AMI publications published several negative stories against Trump’s main competitors: first Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The National Enquirer published a conspiracy theory that Cruz’s father killed JFK, while some of the stories about Clinton pushed a theory that her health was in dramatic decline.

In 2015, Pecker was reportedly in the room with Trump and his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen as they devised strategies for quashing reports on accounts from women who say they had affairs with Trump.

Michael Cohen is pictured above. Yana Paskova/Getty Images

In August 2018, Pecker reportedly entered into an immunity deal with federal prosecutors who were looking into the payments AMI allegedly gave these women to kill their stories.

The National Enquirer snagged another big story last year when they exposed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ extramarital affair. The tabloid backed the story up with personal text message exchanges and photos Bezos exchanged with his mistress.

A New York Post cover shows a headline related to Bezos’ blogpost about Pecker in February 2019. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Bezos later wrote a blog post claiming that Pecker threatened to publish even more embarrassing information if he didn’t drop his investigation into how the National Enquirer got the information about his affair.

The personal nature of the evidence raised questions about how AMI obtained the information. The latest break in the case came on Tuesday, when it emerged that the Saudis reportedly hacked Bezos’ phone.

The National Enquirer is photographed at a convenience store on February 8, 2019 in New York City. Stephanie Keith/Getty

The Guardian was the first to break the news, which was quickly confirmed in a statement released by UN experts. Motherboard obtained a copy of a forensic report from FTI Consulting showing how the phone was apparently hacked.

According to the FTI report, Bezos likely opened a file containing malware sent in a text by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in May 2018.

Jeff Bezos holds up an Amazon Fire phone in 2014. Ted S. Warren/AP

The National Enquirer report came out eight months later but cited texts that were sent days before the mobile phone hack.

Pecker had been getting closer to the crown prince at the time.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in seen in New York City in March 2018. Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2018 via AP

The Guardian reports that they first met in Saudi Arabia in 2017 and got together the following year when MBS visited New York (though a source close to Pecker said they only met once, in Saudi Arabia). AMI even published a fawning magazine about MBS and Saudi Arabia during that visit.

Both AMI and the Saudis had something to gain from smearing Bezos.

Trump baselessly said the National Inquirer is more accurate than the Washington Post. Twitter/@realDonaldTrump

It plays into a pattern of AMI’s coverage that appeases Trump. The president also has an ongoing feud with Bezos and reacted gleefully to the report on Twitter.

Bezos is also the owner of the Washington Post, which employed Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi at the time of the hack.

Jeff Bezos hugs the fiancee of murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2019. BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images

Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018, allegedly on MBS’s order. The crown prince has denied being directly involved in the murder.

Both Saudi Arabia and AMI told The Guardian that there was no Saudi involvement in the Bezos’ story.

David Pecker is pictured in 2012. Brian Ach/Getty Images for Take A Shot!

The Guardian