In the suit, Mr. Sanchez insists that he had not tipped off the Enquirer about Bezos’ affair with his sister — and that he did not supply nude or revealing photos of Bezos and Ms. Sanchez to the publication.
In a statement to Variety, American Media said, “The filing by Mr. Sanchez is his latest attempt to ignore the truth and rewrite history. 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.”
Mr. Sanchez’s lawsuit does not cite the widely reported 2018 contract he entered into with AMI that paid him $200,000 in return for giving the company rights to publish and license text messages and photos documenting the relationship between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez.
It’s the latest turn in the bizarre and byzantine case, which emerged last year after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos charged that the National Enquirer had engaged in a scheme to blackmail and extort him through threats of publishing nude photos and explicit texts exchanged between him and Lauren Sanchez. Bezos, the world’s richest individual, claimed the Saudi regime was irate over coverage by the Washington Post (which Bezos owns) of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He asserted that American Media, which has ties to the Saudis, threatened to release the private pics and texts unless Bezos ended his investigation into how the Enquirer obtained them. AMI also demanded that the Washington Post stop reporting on AMI’s alleged political agenda in pursuing the Bezos story.
American Media has previously said that Mr. Sanchez was the “single source” for the National Enquirer’s coverage of Bezos’ affair with Lauren Sanchez and that Mr. Sanchez “provided all of the materials for our investigation… There was no involvement by any other third party whatsoever.”
In his lawsuit, Mr Sanchez alleges that AMI’s statement was “false and defamatory,” and that among other things it has “devastated Mr. Sanchez’s professional career and reputation, destroyed the invaluable media relationships that are the ‘tools’ of his trade, and left him estranged from his own family.”
In a statement to Variety, a lawyer for Mr. Sanchez, Jonathan Jenkins of Jenkins Kayayan LLP, said, “Michael’s lawsuit speaks for itself. We look forward to our day in court.”
Michael Sanchez claimed he didn’t supply the National Enquirer with “the Pornographic Materials (some of which purportedly depicted his own sister) or many of the other materials included in TNE stories about the affair.” He claimed an FBI forensic search and audit of his computer and electronic devices confirmed that he had never been in possession of the compromising pictures.
Instead, Sanchez’s lawsuit suggests, Saudi Arabia “was likely” one of the Enquirer’s other sources for the Bezos-Lauren Sanchez material and that the Saudis had hacked Bezos’ phone and gained access to his private information.
In January, U.N. forensic experts, based on an analysis commissioned by Bezos, said the evidence suggested that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was behind a hack of Bezos’ iPhone “in an effort to influence, if not silence, The Washington Post’s reporting on Saudi Arabia.” Bezos had received a video through WhatsApp from the Saudi leader’s personal mobile phone in 2018, which installed malware that transmitted large amounts of data from Bezos’ phone, according to the analysis. The Saudi government has denied involvement in the alleged hack.
Sanchez admits in the lawsuit that he provided information to the National Enquirer. However, he claims, this was because he was trying to delay publication of the story and, failing that, he tried to “minimize the fallout for his sister by making a deal to cooperate strategically with Defendants in return for control over the story narrative (i.e. ‘love story’ versus ‘sordid extramarital cheating’) and timing.”
In advance of the Enquirer’s report about Bezos’s affair with Lauren Sanchez (the ex-wife of Endeavor executive chairman Patrick Whitesell), Bezos announced that he and his wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced.
Sanchez’s lawsuit against the National Enquirer and AMI seeks unspecified monetary damages. The suit was filed March 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The suit names as defendants AMI, the National Enquirer, AMI CEO David Pecker and AMI chief content officer Dylan Howard.
In his lawsuit, Mr. Sanchez cites an email he allegedly received from Howard that said, “The untold story – if you will – has not been told as to how we uncovered the [Bezos-Lauren Sanchez] story. I’m saving it for my tombstone.”
The suit identifies Michael Sanchez as the owner and CEO of Axis Management, a “Hollywood-based talent management and film and television production firm. His work often includes arranging, optimizing, and occasionally suppressing media coverage of his high-profile clients.”
Meanwhile, in January of this year, Michael Sanchez filed a lawsuit alleging that Bezos and his security chief, Gavin de Becker, falsely spread information that Mr. Sanchez had supplied the nude photographs to the National Enquirer. Lawyers for Bezos and de Becker responded in a court filing that Mr. Sanchez’s claims were unsubstantiated and that his lawsuit amounted to “extortion.”