Jeff Bezos, the World’s Richest Person, Accuses the National Enquirer of Blackmail

Bezos says the Enquirer threatened to publish private photos.
  • On Feb. 7, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of blackmail.
  • On Jan. 9, Bezos announced he and MacKenzie, his wife of 25 years, were divorcing.
  • In 2017, Bezos surpassed Bill Gates to become the richest person in the world, and in 2018, did the same as the richest American.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of blackmail on Feb. 7. The Enquirer published a story about Bezos’ affair with former news anchor Lauren Sanchez on Jan. 9, and Bezos hired investigators to find out if the story had been published for political reasons, according to Bloomberg. In a Medium blog post, Bezos explained the Enquirer had threatened to publish private photos of him if he didn’t stop the investigation.

“Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote.

In a Feb. 8 statement, American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, responded to Bezos’ accusations by saying it had “acted lawfully” in its reporting and will “thoroughly investigate the claims.”

Bezos’ personal life also made news on Jan. 9 when he and MacKenzie, his wife of 25 years, announced they were divorcing. “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,” they said in a statement.

It might be too early to tell how the blackmail revelation and divorce will impact the net worth of the world’s richest man — and soon-to-be bachelor — but the divorce will likely to reduce it. “Washington state has communal property laws, meaning any assets that were gathered during the course of the marriage will be split,” reported Fortune, which pegged MacKenzie’s outgoing settlement at up to $75 billion. However, it’s unknown if the couple signed a prenup prior to matrimony.

The Forbes 400 2018 list released on Oct. 3, 2018, ranked Bezos as the No. 1 richest American, breaking Bill Gates’ 24-year streak in the top spot. In 2017, he also surpassed Gates to become the richest person in the world.

The business icon has amassed astounding wealth — and significant controversy over how much he pays workers and donates to charity — while using Amazon to disrupt virtually every consumer industry.

Click to see how Bezos’ ideas changed the way you live, and how he made an absolute fortune in the process.

Jeff Bezos Net Worth: $137.3B

Bezos’ net worth was $90.6 billion when the markets opened on October 27, 2017, compared with Bill Gates’ $90.1 billion net worth at the time, according to Forbes. An impressive 59 percent rise in the stock price of Amazon from July 2017 to July 2018 pushed Bezos to new heights, however.

As of Jan. 9, his net worth is $137.3 billion, according to Forbes. No, that’s not a typo. That number puts Bezos in the No. 1 spot on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index — and more than $44 billion ahead of No. 2 billionaire Bill Gates.

Noted to be America’s only centibillionaire (someone with a net worth over $100 billion), Bezos’ bank account has truly reached eye-opening levels.

Bezos and 20 Other: Billionaires With Big, Bold Ideas

Jeff Bezos’ Charitable Giving Lower Than Other Billionaires

In September 2018, Bezos donated $10 million to a political action committee whose mission is to increase the number of veterans in politics. With Honor, a nonpartisan super PAC, is dedicated to “electing next-generation veterans to create a more effective and less polarized government,” according to its website.

Despite his multibillionaire status, Bezos has not been known for his philanthropy. Unlike Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, Bezos has not committed to donating the lion’s share of his wealth. 

It appears that Bezos has been looking for worthy candidates for his philanthropy, however. On June 15, 2017, Bezos tweeted out a request. “This tweet is a request for ideas. I’m thinking about a philanthropy strategy that is the opposite of how I mostly spend my time — working on the long term,” the long tweet began. The tweet got 48,000 comments, many of which were requests for funding.  

With Honor previously aimed to help elect at least 20 American military veterans in November, and now seeks to help elect 100 or more candidates in 2020. The organization’s long-term goal is that by 2030 and beyond, “principled veterans represent a significant percentage of elected positions and American government is less polarized and more effective.”

Jeff Bezos’ Start as an Entrepreneur

Started in July 1995, Amazon offers a slew of products and services to customers around the globe, which helped it become the fastest company ever to reach $100 billion in annual sales — a feat achieved in 2015.

Amazon issued an IPO in May 1997, but the man behind the online retail giant still retains about 10 percent ownership in the company. Amazon is Bezos’ main focus, but the consumer-friendly company is not his only business venture.

Related: How Much Would Jeff Bezos and These Billionaires Lose If the Stock Market Crashed?

In 2013, Bezos became one of the largest players in the news industry after he purchased The Washington Post for $250 million. The billionaire entrepreneur also founded the rocket company Blue Origin, which is developing reusable rockets to shuttle passengers to and from space.

In March 2017, Bezos purchased Dubai-based online retailer Souq.com. The final purchase price was not revealed. However, Dubai’s state-backed Emaar Malls PJSC announced it made an $800-million bid for Souq.com just before Amazon closed its deal, according to an AP report.

Jeff Bezos’ Real Estate Ventures

In 2016, Bezos spent $23 million to purchase the 27,000-square-foot former Textile Museum in Kalorama, a swanky Washington, D.C., neighborhood. The property consists of two historic mansions that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Despite the major investment, the primary Bezos family residence remained in Washington state.

Located in the suburb of Medina, Wash., the main Bezos residence is a 29,000-square-foot compound not far from Amazon’s headquarters. Originally a 13,000-square-foot home, Bezos’ 5.35-acre waterfront property underwent a $28 million renovation to transform it into a sprawling oasis, according to Forbes.

Take Notes: 10 Ways the Richest Billionaires Stay Rich

Jeff Bezos’ Luxury Toys

Immediately after becoming rich, Bezos didn’t head straight to the car dealership. Despite owning roughly $10 billion in Amazon stock in 1999, Bezos was reported by CNBC to still be driving a Honda Accord. That said, Bezos isn’t always a rich person that lives like an average Joe.

Along with his impressive real estate portfolio, Bezos has amassed a fleet of private jets — including a Gulfstream and a Dassault Falcon-900EX — for his personal travel needs. His limited liability company, Poplar Glen, paid $5.5 million for a hangar at Seattle’s Boeing Field to store his jets in 2015.

Check out what strategies Jeff Bezos used to become this rich.

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Sean Dennison, Karen Doyle and Rachel Holly Farrow contributed to the reporting for this article.