The bizarre drama of years behind the story of Jeff Bezos’ secret extramarital relationship is about to get even stranger. A shadowy figure affiliated with National Enquirer claims in court that one of Hollywood’s most powerful players has provided the grocery tabloid with the sordid details of the case.
After Bezos announced in 2018 that he was separating from Mackenzie Bezos, his wife for 25 years, the National Enquirer revealed that the richest man in the world was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, a presenter and television pilot from Southern California. The sordid supermarket tabloid series on the case – which included sassy text messages and suggestive photos between Bezos and Sanchez – sparked a bizarre and extensive public search for the source or sources of information, involving Sanchez’s now estranged brother, Michael Sanchez, top executives in Inquirer the parent company American Media Inc. and even the Saudi government.
Now, Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, a journalist with a strange and disturbing criminal history who reported the story with the National Enquirer and AMI (renamed “A360 Media”), says that one of the main sources of information was Lauren Sanchez’s then husband, William Morris Endeavor executive Patrick Whitesell.
Hatziefstathiou’s allegations are part of a defamation suit that Michael Sanchez filed this year against AMI, claiming that the tabloid media company lied when it revealed him as the only source of information on the Bezos case.
In a statement by Michael Sanchez’s legal team, Hatziefstathiou stated that AMI’s then senior vice president, Dylan Howard, appointed him to investigate the Bezos case after he was informed about the relationship by Whitesell, the executive president of Endeavor. , one of the most prominent talent agencies in the world.
Hatziefstathiou said the case was a convenient excuse for the Endeavor executive to break his marriage, but AMI intended to protect him as a source.
“Mr. Whitesell discovered the case and, by serving as AMI’s secret and undisclosed source, literally turned the case into a ‘free divorce card’, allowing him to leave his wife … through a pre-divorce -planned in which he looked innocent and scandal -free, just a few months before the WME’s planned initial public offering, ”wrote Hatziefstathiou in the process.
Howard and AMI / A360 representatives did not immediately return requests for comment.
“This is categorically false and, unfortunately, it is not the first time that we have seen this desperate attempt by Michael Sanchez to perpetuate this strange and tiring circus,” Patrick Whitesell’s spokesman told The Daily Beast. “The fact that Patrick was involved in this bizarre series of lawsuits and incriminations is a direct result of the character of those involved and is completely disconnected from reality. Any suggestion to the contrary is malicious and defamatory. “
In Hatziefstathiou’s AMI resignation letter in 2020, included in this week’s request, he wrote that the company included “blatant lies” in its lawsuits related to the Bezos case, saying that AMI was misleading the courts about the source of the information.
But the former AMI journalist himself has a dubious history of legal problems that could affect the court’s view of its reliability and truthfulness. In 2019, he was charged with 20 criminal charges for a bizarre scheme in which he posed as a journalist from the New York Times and Good Morning America and created a fake racist email that purported to be from a Delaware County adult parole and parole officer.
While the Philly Voice noticed, he previously pleaded guilty to calling the police to report a disturbance at his neighbor’s house after sending dozens of prostitutes there, and was advised by a judge to stop watching police films after trying to find a drug dealer. to the police.
Much of Hatziefstathiou’s testimony this week is somewhat rambling about his defense of his own personal conduct and details of his reports on the Bezos case. Furthermore, although Hatziefstathiou claims that Whitesell was involved, the process did not include any evidence other than his own testimony, clearly linking the WME executive to AMI.
Still, Hatziefstathiou said in the lawsuit that he additionally has “ten terabytes” of data consisting of one million documents about the AMI and its coverage of the Bezos case to support his claims.
The question of who leaked information on the Bezos case to AMI and Inquirer triggered a hunt that lasted for years involving some of the darkest players in the world of tabloid journalism, entertainment and corporate espionage. In 2019, The Daily Beast first reported that Michael Sanchez was AMI’s source for the spicy text messages between his sister and Bezos, a revelation from Inquirer later confirmed.
In a lawsuit last July – AMI’s motion to dismiss Michael Sanchez’s lawsuit and sanction him for allegedly abusing the judicial system – the Inquirer the parent company included a cache of e-mails, text messages and sworn statements from AMI employees who tended to point to Sanchez as the source of the obscene stories. The court documents painted a picture of Sanchez as an unfair brother eager to betray his married sister and his secret billionaire lover.
AMI finally agreed to pay Sanchez $ 200,000, according to the July 2020 court case, for “information, photographs and text messages that document a case between Bezos and L. Sanchez”. In the end, it was a lost proposition. Last month, after the Los Angeles County Superior Court judge dismissed Michael Sanchez’s separate defamation lawsuit against Bezos and his security adviser Gavin de Becker, Sanchez was ordered to pay the billionaire $ 218,385 in court fees. Bezos.
AMI’s judicial process, in turn, contained chronological inconsistencies, raising questions about the Inquirer initial source, which is described in detail in Hatziefstathiou’s testimony, claiming that it was the powerful Hollywood broker Whitesell who first alerted the tabloid about the Bezos-Sanchez relationship.
The text messages, provided by Michael Sanchez, were not the only lewd evidence of the case in the Inquirer possession. And Sanchez said he was not the only source of AMI, a theory that Bezos’s camp seemed to share.
In a long 2019 column for The Daily Beast, Bezos’ security consultant Gavin de Becker wrote that his investigation concluded with “high confidence” that the “Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone and obtained private information. Today, it is unclear to what extent, if any, AMI was aware of the details. ”Later, United Nations experts gave credit to these claims.
While he suggested that the Saudis had access to Bezos’s phone, Becker’s publicly questioned why AMI itself almost seemed to intend to highlight Michael Sanchez as the Inquirer source. “What was unusual, very unusual, was how the people at AMI worked to publicly reveal the identity of their source,” he wrote. “First through strong tips they gave me, and then through direct statements, AMI practically put a kick signal on Michael Sanchez.”
Bezos wrote in a Medium 2019 post that AMI was trying to “blackmail him”, saying the media company was threatening to post a selfie “below the belt – also colloquially known as the choice ‘d * ck [sic]’”Unless the Washington Post stops investigating the leak.
“Any personal embarrassment that AMI may cause me is in the background, because there is a much more important issue involved here,” wrote Bezos. “If in my position I can’t stand this type of extortion, how many people will be able to do it?”