The brother of Jeff Bezos’s girlfriend is suing him for defamation, claiming the Amazon founder and his team falsely told reporters that he provided nude photos of Mr Bezos to the National Enquirer.
In the complaint filed in Los Angeles, Michael Sanchez, a Hollywood talent manager, says he has lost clients and has been shunned by family and friends. The lawsuit does not specify how much money he is seeking.
The lawsuit says Mr Bezos began his affair with Mr Sanchez’s sister Lauren in 2017, when her production company was hired to do work for the tech tycoon’s space exploration company. The couple kept the relationship secret based on advice from a psychic in New Mexico, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit alleges that in 2018, Ms Sanchez approached her brother, who was her manager at the time, about leaking information about the affair to gossip website TMZ as a way to get ahead of the media and limit any backlash.
Mr Sanchez says he advised his sister against the move but after quashing rumours about the affair by multiple tabloid reporters, he entered a deal with the publisher of the National Enquirer in which 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”.
Shortly after the National Enquirer ran a story on the affair early last year, Mr Bezos published a blog post alleging the tabloid tried to blackmail him with embarrassing photos he sent to Ms Sanchez.
He also suggested the Enquirer had ties with Saudi Arabia, which was upset with coverage in the Washington Post, which Mr Bezos owns. The Post had been harshly critical of the Saudi government after the killing of columnist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.
A lawyer for Mr Bezos said his client will address Mr Sanchez’s lawsuit in court “very soon”.
In a prepared statement provided by her lawyer, Ms Sanchez said her “family is hurting over this new baseless and untrue lawsuit, and we truly hope my brother finds peace”.
Last month, two human rights experts at the United Nations said Mr Bezos’s phone was probably hacked through a file sent from an account used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
But the UN experts did not tie the hack to the Enquirer. The experts called for an “immediate investigation” by the United States.
Mr Sanchez alleges in the lawsuit that Mr Bezos and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, spread false statements to reporters saying he had provided the photos to the tabloid. Mr Sanchez says he never had possession of the photos.
Mr de Becker is listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.