Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and currently the world’s richest man, has been sued for defamation by Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos’s girlfriend/fiancé. In his complaint, filed in a California state court, Sanchez alleges that Bezos has falsely spread rumors that Sanchez obtained and provided explicit text messages from and nude photos of Bezos to The National Enquirer. Sanchez claims that the allegedly defamatory comments have caused him to lose clients and be shunned by family and friends. In addition to Bezos, the suit also names Gavin de Becker, a security consultant hired by Bezos, and ten other “john does” as defendants.
The complaint, which reads like a lurid tell-all, is replete with salacious details concerning the Amazon founder. The complaint alleges numerous previously unknown details including when Bezos’s affair with Sanchez’s sister Lauren began, that Bezos and Lauren allegedly consulted a psychic concerning the affair and that Bezos and Lauren are currently engaged. And although the lawsuit requests actual and punitive damages, it does not specify how much money is being sought.
The lawsuit alleges that Bezos began his extramarital affair with Lauren in 2017 when her production company was hired to do work for Bezos’s space exploration company. Bezos and Lauren decided to keep the relationship secret based on advice from a psychic in New Mexico, according to the complaint. At the time, Bezos was still married to his now ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos. Sanchez, who claims that he has acted as Lauren’s agent since at least 2010, claims that he agreed to keep the affair secret to protect his sister’s personal and professional reputation. Instead, the complaint alleges that Sanchez “was instrumental in covering up first, the existence, and second, the timing of the affair.”
The lawsuit alleges that Lauren approached Sanchez in 2018 about leaking information about the affair to a reporter at TMZ, but Sanchez initially advised against this action. Only after quashing rumors about the affair from multiple tabloid reporters did Sanchez agree to enter into a confidential deal to cooperate strategically with the publisher of the tabloid The National Enquirer as a way to get ahead of the story and limit any backlash, according to the complaint. Under the agreement, Sanchez alleges that he “agreed to corroborate the existence of the relationship under conditions that would help Mr. Sanchez manage the timing of the story and the way in which the affair was portrayed.”
Reports from other news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, claims that The National Enquirer’s publisher paid Sanchez $200,000 under this agreement. However, the complaint alleges that, far from seeking to profit off of the affair, Sanchez was “nothing but supportive of his sister and Mr. Bezos, both professionally and personally” at all times.
After The National Enquirer ran a story on the affair in January 2019 that included details of explicit text messages, Bezos retained the services of security expert Gavin de Becker to determine The National Enquirer’s source. According to the complaint, Mr. de Becker soon concluded that “Mr. Sanchez, in a conspiracy with his conservative friends like Carter Page and Roger Stone, made sense as the culprit and immediately begin disseminating that to various news sources, in blatant disregard of its falsity.” The complaint alleges that de Becker, with authorization from Bezos to speak on his behalf, shared his conclusions with various individuals and media outlets. The complaint further alleges that “[u]pon information and belief, Mr. Bezos was aware of Mr. de Becker’s actions and statements, and refused to contradict them.”
One source of defamatory statements, the complaint alleges, was a story that ran in The Washington Post, owned by Bezos since 2013, which Bezos and de Becker allegedly personally gave advanced approval of. According to the complaint, Bezos and de Becker “directed Sarah Ellison, a reporter for The Washington Post, to include statements in the article that were known to be false in order to further smear Mr. Sanchez.” As a result of the alleged defamation, de Becker alleges that his personal and professional reputation have been ruined and that he has lost numerous friends and acquaintances. The complaint alleges that the defendants acted with actual malice and as a result seeks an award of punitive damages under California law.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
Whether you are being accused of defaming someone or you believe that someone else has defamed you, it is important to consult an experienced slander law and cyber-smear law attorney. Our DuPage County defamation attorneys defend individuals’ First Amendment and free speech rights to address matters of public concern. Our results speak for themselves. Here you can read a federal court decision where we successfully defended our client against a libel per se claim asserting the innocent construction defense and arguing that the statements were nonactionable opinion. We also recently required a defendant who publicized an allegedly false lawsuit regarding our client to provide an apology and full retraction as part of a confidential financial settlement following our filing of a $16 million libel per se lawsuit.
Our Hinsdale and Clarendon Hills defamation attorneys also represent and prosecute claims on behalf of businesses throughout the Chicagoland area including in Wilmette and Evanston who have been unfairly and falsely criticized by consumers and competitors in defamatory publications in the online and offline media. We have successfully represented businesses who have been the victim of competitors setting up false rating websites in order to publish defamatory content about our business clients. Beyond slander and libel law, our Chicago and Cook County defamation, libel, and slander lawyers represent individuals, family businesses and enterprises of all sizes in a variety of legal disputes, including disputes among partners and shareholders as well as lawsuits between businesses and consumer rights, auto fraud, and wage claim individual and class action cases. In every case, our goal is to resolve disputes as quickly and successfully as possible, helping business clients protect their investments and get back to business as usual. We serve clients throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area. You can contact us online here or call us on our locally number at 630-333-0333.