Jeff Bezos is not considering a purchase of the gossip tabloid that exposed the sordid details of his high-profile affair.
A friend of Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon and the owner of The Washington Post, says he has no interest in buying the National Enquirer after its parent company, American Media Inc. (AMI), announced it is exploring a sale of the tabloid this week.
“No way he’d be interested in having anything to do with the Enquirer, not as owner, not even as reader,” the friend told The Daily Beast on Thursday.
Bezos has accused AMI and two of its top executives, David Pecker and Dylan Howard, of attempting to extort him through threats to release lewd photos of Bezos and his mistress, Los Angeles news personality Lauren Sanchez.
The threats came after Gavin de Becker, Bezos’ personal security consultant, began probing the political motivations behind the Enquirer decision to publish elicit texts between Bezos and Sanchez that had been leaked to the tabloid by Sanchez’s brother Michael.
In a column for The Daily Beast last week, de Becker also suggested that the government of Saudi Arabia—which has attacked Bezos publicly over the Post’s reporting on Saudi complicity in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi—may have been also obtained Bezos’ private communications. AMI maintains that Sanchez was its only source for the Bezos story.
AMI insisted in a statement on Wednesday that the potential sale of the Enquirer is the result of a “strategic operational review” that began last August. But the Post, which first broke the news that the tabloid could be offloaded, reported that the hedge fund manager whose firm owns AMI was “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s reporting tactics involving the Bezos story.
The tabloid’s tactics in general have come under intense scrutiny since Pecker and Howard admitted to using the Enquirer to make hush money payments to one of President Trump’s alleged mistresses, former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal. AMI admitted last year that they bought the rights to McDougal's story weeks before the 2016 presidential election in order to prevent the story from getting out in public, a practice known as “catch and kill.”
Federal prosecutors are set to meet with Bezos to discuss his extortion allegations against AMI. If prosecutors find reason to believe that AMI or its executives committed a crime, it could imperil the non-prosecution agreement they reached in the McDougal case, which spared them from charges of campaign finance law violations.
As scandal engulfed AMI, its business hit dire financial straits, racking up tens of millions of dollars per year in losses. A sale of the Enquirer could help stem those losses.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that billionaire investor Ron Burkle, a prominent backer of Trump 2016 rival Hillary Clinton, was a lead candidate to buy the tabloid. But Burkle later categorically denied that was the case.