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Eileen Rivers, USA TODAY Opinion
Michael Sanchez, whose sister has a romantic relationship with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, was reportedly paid $200,000 to leak the couple’s texts and photos to the National Enquirer.
While the Daily Beast reported in February that Sanchez had leaked Bezos’ texts to the Enquirer, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that he was paid to do so by the tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc.
The amount is higher than the company typically pays sources, the Journal reported, saying it “reflected the significance American Media placed on Mr. Sanchez’s information.”
The battle between Bezos and the Enquirer began after it published an 11-page story in January that included racy text messages shared between the Amazon CEO and Lauren Sanchez, a Los Angeles news anchor.
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The Enquirer story came just days after Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and is the world’s richest person, tweeted that he and MacKenzie Bezos, his wife of 25 years, were divorcing.
People familiar with the matter told the Journal that AMI CEO David Pecker was concerned Bezos would sue. Pecker also was told by one of his advisers that publishing might make it appear he was doing so on behalf of President Donald Trump, the Journal reported.
Pecker is a longtime ally of Trump, who has been a critic of Bezos, Amazon and The Post, frequently targeting all three on Twitter.
Trump tweeted about Bezos’ personal life on Jan. 13 following the Enquirer’s reveal that Bezos was seeing Sanchez, calling the Amazon founder “Jeff Bozo” and writing that he was “so sorry to hear the news” about Bezos being “taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post.”
Bezos has accused AMI of “extortion and blackmail.” He detailed alleged correspondence between the lawyer for his lead investigator, Martin Singer, and Dylan Howard, the chief content officer for AMI in a blog post for Medium in February.
The Journal reported that Pecker was unaware Michael Sanchez was paid up-front and had a heated meeting with general counsel Cameron Stracher in New York City.
AMI source agreements require, in most cases, for the company to pay for information after the story is published and if a story is never published the company doesn’t have to pay, the Journal reported.
The company’s contract with Michael Sanchez was different and stipulated he was to paid up-front, regardless of whether any story was published, people familiar with the contract told the Journal.
Sanchez told the Journal he didn’t want to “dignify” its reporting on the contract he struck and described the contract as “old rumors” from anonymous sources, Monday’s story said.
The Journal said a spokesman for Jeff Bezos declined to comment and Lauren Sanchez didn’t respond to requests for comment.
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