Here's what you need to know about Jeff Bezos' dramatic divorce, and how the leak of his affair with Lauren Sanchez has ties to Trump and the Saudi government

Getty/Marion Curtis/AP/Joe Raedle/Business Insider compositeFrom left to right: David Pecker, Jeff Bezos, and Donald Trump.

On January 9, Jeff Bezos announced that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were seeking a divorce. The couple said in a statement: “As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.”

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The couple first met when working at the the investment management firm D.E. Shaw & Co., before Jeff Bezos even founded Amazon. They were married for 25 years, and have four kids together.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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News of the divorce raised questions about its impact on the net worth of Jeff Bezos, the richest person in the world. In the end, after the divorce was settled, Jeff Bezos kept his spot as world’s richest and MacKenzie Bezos was awarded a 4% stake in Amazon valued at $US35 billion. MacKenzie gave her ex-husband voting control over her stake, and as well as her interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin.

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In response to a question about the Bezos divorce, Donald Trump told reporters he wished the Amazon CEO good luck, and said the divorce was “going to be a beauty.” He later took to Twitter to gift Jeff Bezos with a new nickname: “Jeff Bozo.”

AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaPresident Donald Trump

Trump has historically been highly critical of Bezos, Amazon, and the Washington Post. On Twitter, Trump also took aim at the Bezos-owned “lobbyist newspaper.”

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Hours after news of the Bezos divorce broke, the National Enquirer reported that Jeff Bezos has been dating a former TV host named Lauren Sanchez — and said that it had conducted a 4-month-long investigation into the affair.

Todd Williamson/Getty Images for Amazon StudiosJeff Bezos, right, with Lauren Sanchez and her husband Patrick Whitesell.

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Sanchez, 49, works in media, and is also a licensed pilot who owns an aerial-filming company. She was married to Patrick Whitesell, the co-CEO of mega-influential Hollywood talent agency WME. However, the couple reportedly filed for divorce in April, the day after MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos finalised the terms of their divorce.

Stefanie Keenan/WireImageLauren Sanchez.

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The National Enquirer said that its reporters had tracked Bezos and Sanchez “across five states and 40,000 miles, tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and ‘quality time’ in hidden love nests.”

National EnquirerAn image shared by National Enquirer apparently showing its forthcoming frontpage story on Jeff Bezos.

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The National Enquirer also said it had obtained “raunchy messages and erotic selfies” exchanged between Bezos and Sanchez, including “one steamy picture too explicit to print here.” One of the texts Bezos sent to Sanchez reportedly read: “I love you, alive girl.”

Getty/AP/Business Insider compositeJeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez.

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A Washington Post story later reported that Bezos purposely announced his divorce on Twitter as a way to preempt the National Enquirer report.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

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On January 30, the Daily Beast reported Jeff Bezos was personally funding an investigation into who leaked his private photos and texts to the National Enquirer. The report said initial findings didn’t indicate that either Bezos’ or Sanchez’ phones were hacked.

Getty / David Ryder

Source: The Daily Beast

The investigation into the leaked text messages is headed up by Gavin de Becker, who serves as Bezos’ personal chief of security. De Becker is an expert known as the “security guru to the stars,” with previous clients including Madonna, Cher, and John Travolta.

Willy Sanjuan/Invision/APGavin de Becker speaking at the Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds Memorial Service in 2017.

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De Becker told the Daily Beast he was considering the theory that the leak to the National Enquirer was “politically motivated.” AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, has repeatedly denied this.

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Source: The Daily Beast

De Becker and investigators set their sights on Lauren Sanchez’s brother, Michael Sanchez, who has stayed the prime suspect behind the leak. Michael Sanchez is an outspoken Trump supporter who reportedly has ties to prominent allies of the president, including Roger Stone.

John Sciulli/Getty Images for PoliticonMichael Sanchez.

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The Daily Beast reported on February 10 that “multiple sources” identified Michael Sanchez as the person responsible for leaking the texts. Sanchez has repeatedly denied sharing Bezos’ “penis photos” with AMI, but dodged questions about whether he was responsible to sharing leaked screenshots of texts between the Amazon CEO and his sister.

Drew Angerer / Getty ImagesJeff Bezos.

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As for the notion that there are political motives at play: Jeff Bezos and President Trump have a frosty relationship — Bezos criticised Trump during the 2016 election cycle, and the Bezos-owned Washington Post has published coverage critical of Trump and his administration.

Reuters/Joshua Roberts/Susan Walsh/AP/Business Insider compositeJeff Bezos and Donald Trump.

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The National Enquirer’s publisher, AMI, is headed up by David Pecker, who has a friendship with President Trump that dates back to the 1990s. Pecker is said to have engaged in a practice called “catch and kill” — where Pecker would help cover up any news stories that might cast Trump in an unflattering light.

Marion Curtis via AP, FileDavid Pecker in 2001.

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Besides Pecker, another AMI executive also has links to Trump. David Hughes, one of the four men who serve on AMI’s board of directors, once served as the chief financial officer of Trump Entertainment Resorts up until it filed for bankruptcy in September 2014.

Evan Vucci/AP PhotoDonald Trump.

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It’s still not clear how, exactly, the National Enquirer got ahold of Bezos’ private texts and photos. Some have speculated that foreign governments were involved, or that it was even hostile action from one of Amazon’s competitors in the tech sector.

Mark Lennihan/AP

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Then in February, Bezos then took everyone by surprise by publishing a blog post that accused Pecker and AMI of “extortion and blackmail.” Bezos claimed AMI threatened to release the intimate photos it had acquired unless he agreed to stop investigating the leaks and made a public statement denying the leaks were politically motivated — two things he says he refused to do.

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption,” Bezos wrote in his defiant blog post.

Cliff Owen/AP

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Bezos also appeared to include copies of the emails that had been sent to him by lawyers representing AMI. One of those lawyers, deputy general counsel Jon Fine, previously worked at Amazon. Fine’s LinkedIn profile says he worked there from 2006 until 2015, primarily in publishing and marketing the Kindle reader.

Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty ImagesJon Fine, the former Amazon exec who’s now a lawyer for the National Enquirer.

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In the wake of the blog post, Bezos’ claims of extortion are reportedly under review by federal prosecutors. If AMI is found to have broken any sort of law in the actions it took against Bezos, the company would be in violation of an agreement it made with prosecutors in a separate matter during the 2016 presidential campaign. AMI had admitted to paying off a woman ahead of the election who alleged she had an affair with Donald Trump.

Marion Curtis via AP, Leonard Ortiz/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty ImagesDavid Pecker and Jeff Bezos.

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Bezos also hinted in his blog post that there may be ties between the National Enquirer’s investigation into his personal life and the Saudi government. Bezos highlighted Pecker’s reported personal ties to the Saudis, and wrote that “the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve” with Pecker.

Getty/Chip SomodevillaJeff Bezos.

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Journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, worked for the Bezos-owned Washington Post — leading some to speculate that the Saudis were somehow involved with the National Enquirer investigation, especially given Bezos’ blog post.

Hasan Jamali/APSaudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The Saudi minister of foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, has denied that the country had any role in the feud between Bezos and AMI. He told CBS the whole situation sounded like “a soap opera.”

Reuters/Kevin LamarqueSaudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir.

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Response on social media to Bezos’ blog post has been generally positive. People on Twitter praised Bezos for demonstrating “raw power” and “accepting personal responsibility,” as he stands up to alleged blackmail even at the risk of his intimate photos getting out into the world.^tfw

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In the wake of Bezos’ blog post, several journalists — including New Yorker contributor Ronan Farrow — have come forward with their own claims that AMI tried to threaten them into stopping their reporting. Actor Terry Crews also later came forward to say AMI had tried to “silent” him in 2017 with fake stories.

(Daily Beast, citing unnamed sources)Journalist Ronan Farrow.

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AMI said in a statement that it believes it “acted lawfully” and “in good faith” in its reporting on Bezos and Sanchez. However, AMI also said its board of directors would thoroughly investigate Bezos’ claims and would take “whatever appropriate action is necessary” upon its findings. Pecker serves as chairman of the board.

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In an appearance on ABC, Pecker’s lawyer Elkan Abramowitz defended the company’s actions. He said that “politics have nothing to do” with AMI’s threats against Bezos to release his nude photos. He also denied that either Saudi Arabia or the White House were involved in AMI’s stories on Bezos, calling the claim “libel.”

Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty ImagesElkan Abramowitz, attorney for AMI’s chairman David Pecker.

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On March 30, Bezos’ chief security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote in The Daily Beast that after his investigation he could conclude that the Saudi government had hacked Bezos’ phone and gained access to his private information.

Source: The Daily Beast

De Becker wrote that Bezos had been subject to numerous threats by the Saudis since October, when the Washington Post reported its columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents.

Hasan Jamali/AP; Virginia Mayo/AP; Andrew Harnik/APA composite image of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and US President Donald Trump.

Source: The Daily Beast

AMI and Saudi Arabia have reportedly denied any connections, but relationships within the White House, Saudi Arabia, and the tabloid involving figures like Pecker suggest there could be more revelations to come.

In the meantime, the relationship between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez appears to be flourishing. In his first public appearance since his divorce was finalised in July, Bezos was photographed with Sanchez at the men’s Wimbledon final.

Adrian Dennis/ReutersJeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez attend the men’s Wimbledon finals.

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In August, Sanchez — Lauren Sanchez’s brother — appeared on Fox News to talk about the affair between his sister and Bezos. In his first TV interview about his involvement, Sanchez said that Bezos came to him for help managing the press because he didn’t think Amazon’s PR team was “equipped” to deal. He also again denied any involvement in leaking Bezos’ photos.

Fox NewsMichael Sanchez.

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Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into Bezos’ claims of blackmail against AMI, Fox News reported. The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York has reportedly convened a grand jury that is taking testimony on the incident, and Sanchez said in his TV appearance he plans to cooperate with investigators.

John Sciulli/Getty Images; Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Samantha Lee/Business InsiderMichael Sanchez and Jeff Bezos.

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