Jeff Bezos is asking his girlfriend’s brother to pay his $1.7 million legal fees, after successfully defending a defamation lawsuit.
Bezos, the world’s richest person with a net worth of $193 billion according to Forbes, was sued by Michael Sanchez in February 2019.
Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent, 54, accused Bezos, 57, and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, of damaging his reputation by telling journalists that he had leaked naked photos to The National Enquirer.
In November Judge John P. Doyle of the Los Angeles County Superior Court dismissed the case, saying Sanchez’s allegations were relying heavily on hearsay.
Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez are seen in January 2020. Their relationship was revealed by The National Enquirer in January 2019
Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent agent, was the source of the report, AMI said
Bezos, in his court filings, said he never accused Sanchez of leaking the photos.
On Friday the Amazon founder – who is in a back-and-forth rally with Elon Musk for the title of world’s richest person – requested that Sanchez pay his legal fees.
Under a Californian law known as the anti-SLAPP statute, a victorious defendant is entitled to have their legal costs reimbursed by the plaintiff.
Bezos in his Friday filing said that Sanchez betrayed his sister, and him, by selling their private communications to the tabloid for $200,000.
Bezos accused him of then doubling down by filing a lawsuit, intended to harass Bezos into a settlement ‘by threatening discovery and public disclosure of private matters.’
Sanchez’s lawyer, Tom Warren, told Bloomberg – which first reported Friday’s filing – that the billionaire’s request was ‘grotesque’.
‘Mr Bezos’s fee request is obscene, even grotesque, on many levels,’ he said.
In November, Warren said that Sanchez intended to appeal Judge Doyle’s ruling.
‘We respectfully disagree with the trial court’s ruling and look forward to vindicating Mr Sanchez’s claims on appeal,’ he said at the time.
It was unclear whether they still intended to appeal.
Patrick Whitesell, Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos at a Hollywood party in December 2016
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos at the Vanity Fair post-Oscars party in March 2018
The remarkable family rift began in January 2019, when the tabloid magazine revealed the affair between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, who were both still married at the time – although she was separated from her husband, Hollywood talent-agent executive Patrick Whitesell.
On January 9 Bezos and his then-wife, MacKenzie, parents to four children, announced they were divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
The Enquirer’s next print edition wasn’t scheduled for publication for several days, and its editors, according to The Wall Street Journal, rushed the Bezos story online that night and into print with a headline: ‘BEZOS’ DIVORCE! THE CHEATING PHOTOS THAT ENDED HIS MARRIAGE.’
The magazine printed text messages and photos of the pair out in public, but not the nude photos.
Donald Trump, who has a long-running fury at Bezos for his newspaper, The Washington Post, and his business, tweeted on January 13: ‘So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo 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 asked de Becker to look into who leaked the text messages.
The CEO of the paper’s parent company AMI, David Pecker, was enraged by the investigation, and emailed Bezos – via de Becker’s attorney – on February 5, 2019, threatening to publish ten nude and otherwise personal photos unless the investigation into the source of the images was called off.
Bezos on February 7, 2019, called Pecker’s bluff and published the email in full, saying he refused to be blackmailed.
Sanchez vehemently insisted that he had not leaked the photos, telling The Washington Post on February 29, 2019 he had not passed the pictures to AMI.
‘I never in a million years would be able to give Jeff’s [naked] pix to AMI because I never had them,’ he said.
‘If AMI has them, they came from others. Period.’
Sanchez has insisted he did not supply the ten naked and otherwise personal photos
Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos have aggressively investigated The National Enquirer
Sanchez did not deny that he had handed the couples’ text messages to the magazine, however, and told The Post that he refused to ‘dignify’ with a response ‘baseless smears’ that he provided the texts.
Sanchez claimed that federal investigators found he had no case to answer regarding the leaked images.
‘Once the FBI and Amazon’s own investigators cleared me of ever possessing the pictures used to blackmail Jeff, I thought I’d get a private apology, at a minimum,’ he said.
‘But Jeff and Lauren haven’t looked back.
‘I’ve been thrown under the bus. Sadly, it’s likely the next time I see them will be in court.’
Lauren and Michael Sanchez, raised in New Mexico, used to be close allies and friends
AMI put out a public statement in March 2019 saying that it was Sanchez who tipped them off to the affair and ‘provided all the materials’ for the investigation.
Sanchez admitted in his lawsuit that he ‘helped’ the story in an effort to control the narrative about his sister’s relationship.
In March 2020 Sanchez filed another suit, this one against AMI, accusing them too of defaming him.
Sanchez argued that it was Saudi Arabians who hacked Bezos’s phone and leaked the photos, in retaliation for The Washington Post’s aggressive reporting on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
AMI have dismissed the case as being ridiculous.
‘The filing by Mr Sanchez is his latest attempt to ignore the truth and rewrite history,’ they said in a statement.
‘The fact, as we have maintained throughout, is that Mr Sanchez sold the National Enquirer the story about his sister’s secret affair and was the sole source for its reporting.
‘His frivolous lawsuit underscores what his true motivation is, his own greed.’