Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, was forced to announce his divorce ahead of a tell-all story about his eight-month affair with a former television presenter, it was reported yesterday.
The 'National Enquirer' said it had tailed the billionaire for four months across five states as he engaged in trysts with Lauren Sanchez.
The magazine claimed to have obtained an embarrassing exchange of texts between Mr Bezos (54) and one-time Fox presenter Ms Sanchez (49), who is married to Patrick Whitesell, a Hollywood talent agent.
It claimed to have contacted Mr Bezos informing him of its investigation 48 hours before he publicly announced he was divorcing wife MacKenzie.
The pair have been married for 25 years and have four children.
Ms Bezos, who is a novelist, is expected to become the richest woman in the world after their divorce settlement.
Mr Bezos has an estimated net worth of $140bn (€120bn) and under divorce laws in Washington state, where the family live, couples without an existing agreement split any assets down the middle.
According to the 'National Enquirer', Mr Bezos has been using his private jet for secret meetings with Ms Sanchez, taking her on exotic trips, sending her explicit text messages and even sexual images of himself.
The liaisons included one romantic getaway at the very same hotel in Boston, where the Bezos family stayed when attending an event at their son's university, the magazine claimed.
Mr Bezos is thought to have met Ms Sanchez through her husband, who represents stars including Matt Damon, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the two couples have reportedly socialised for a few years.
Ms Sanchez and Mr Whitesell are thought to have separated in the autumn, but have not formally filed for divorce.
According to one source, Ms Sanchez was hired to work on Mr Bezos's space-launch firm.
In one message, it was claimed Mr Bezos wrote: "I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon."
A lawyer representing Mr Bezos told the 'Enquirer' that it was "widely known" the businessman and his wife had been "long separated".
Asked about the divorce yesterday, Donald Trump, the US president, a vocal critic of Mr Bezos, told reporters "it's going to be a beauty".
Mr Bezos has been a regular target of the president, in part due to his ownership of the 'Washington Post', which frequently criticises the current administration.