Wednesday 20 February 2019

Sarah Caden: 'Bezos split says loving exploration - but the photos say otherwise...'

The Bezos statement of separation is loving, but that can't distract from his sexting scandal, writes Sarah Caden

(L-R) CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and writer MacKenzie Bezos attend the Amazon Studios Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
(L-R) CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos and writer MacKenzie Bezos attend the Amazon Studios Oscar Celebration at Delilah on February 26, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)
How amicable will the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce really be? Picture: Getty

Sarah Caden

It all started out so gorgeously Gwyneth. Last Wednesday, in a Twitter announcement of their separation, MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos's period of "loving exploration" looked set to rival the aforementioned's "conscious uncoupling" from Chris Martin.

Keeping it cheesily cosy, the Bezos statement went on to say they would "continue [their] shared lives as friends".

"We feel incredibly lucky," the statement tweeted by Jeff Bezos continued, "to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other. If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again. We've had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures. Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends."

To take this at face value, it's a wonderful way to enter the separation process. The Bezos attitude is one to be admired. They don't regret their union or regard it as a failure, even if it is now over. They want to remain friends, no doubt in part, because they have four children together.

How amicable will the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce really be? Picture: Getty
How amicable will the Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos divorce really be? Picture: Getty

Sadly, though, it took only a heartbeat, a firing off of synapses, for most minds to turn from the meaning of "loving exploration" to the full whack of "show me the money".

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos is, with an estimated fortune of $137bn, the Forbes 2018 richest man in the world. Post-prospective divorce, MacKenzie Bezos may become the world's richest woman. The couple, who met pre-Amazon when both worked for the same hedge fund, reportedly do not have a prenuptial agreement. MacKenzie was Mrs Bezos when Amazon began as a small online bookseller in their Seattle garage. She was more than Mrs Bezos, by all accounts, she was hands-on and key to the start-ups success. Which is why she may be in line to properly share the fortune.

There was lots of mirthless chuckling at the Bezos statement last Wednesday. As if we all know that when it comes to money, manners and good intentions go out the window. Regular separations and divorces are bad enough, with the inherent emotional toll, the hurt and anger, the legalities and practicalities of property and children.

Bring money into the mix and it can become poisonous and the more people have, the more they want to hold on to it. That's how rich people become and stay rich: the money matters. And the more money there is, the less likely they are to emerge from the process as cherished friends or even on speaking terms.

Daggers at dawn and the most cut-throat lawyers that billions could buy seemed to be the worst of the path ahead of them. But then Thursday broke. The National Enquirer held up its front page with the promise of no fewer than 11 scandalising pages on an affair between Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a TV news anchor, one-time host of So You Think You Can Dance, billed as a "weathergirl" in some of last week's headlines. She has apparently separated from her husband, Patrick Whitesell, a high-powered Hollywood agent.

The tabloid said they had been investigating Bezos for four months "across five states and 40,000 miles", which makes it sound like some sort of noble trek, rather than muck-raking. They couldn't be faulted on their thoroughness, however. Apparently acting on a tip-off last year, photographs suggested Bezos and Sanchez had been determinedly followed to alleged trysts and the expose included references to texts and images that were nothing short of mortifying.

There were transcripts of texts, intercepted we don't know how, that had Bezos describing how he wanted tuck Sanchez gently in to bed, how he was going to show her how much he loved her with his body, his eyes, his lips. The texts were part Prince Charles tampon-gate, part Alan Partridge, both at their cringeworthy best.

It wasn't so much that the texts were lurid as embarrassing. Any love-sick texts read as embarrassing to anyone but those involved and really aren't meant for the eyes of others, but this is the richest man in the world. Is there no dignity in that?

Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie Bezos arrive at the premiere of
Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie Bezos arrive at the premiere of "The Italian Job" at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center as part of Tribeca Film Festival May 11, 2003 in New York City. (Photo by Sara Jaye/Getty Images)

The texts were nothing to the images the Enquirer claimed were too shocking to publish. But OK to tell us about. Bezos had sent Sanchez photographs of himself in only a towel it seems. He had, like the teenagers we plead for tech giants to protect from their own worst instincts, sent pictures of his manhood to her, apparently. Well, Bezos is bound to be proud of the physical transformation he has undergone in recent years and in proportion to his wealth.

Last year, when he was photographed looking more Vin Diesel than the fluffy-haired, toothy bookseller of old, there was a flurry of articles advising on the diet and training regimen of the newly buff Jeff Bezos.

This alleged behaviour could be seen as worse than undignified because we make demi-gods of these people, the people who now have the massive wealth, the people who are shaping how we live today. The success of the likes of Zuckerberg and Bezos is seen as a sort of revenge of the nerds, a geek world domination but that, clearly, doesn't make them a new and improved variety of human being. Tech billions, it seems, don't stop you from allegedly behaving badly.

The strange thing about the contrast between the Wednesday statement of love and understanding and the Thursday expose, is that it seems possible that Jeff Bezos knew what was coming before the statement was posted.

On Thursday, there was a suggestion made by American Media Inc, the National Enquirer's parent company, that it was their investigation that prompted the Bezos statement. "The National Enquirer has been doggedly investigating this story for four months," American Media Inc said, "and the extraordinary details and evidence uncovered by our team, and presented to Mr Bezos's representatives for comment early this week, underscores the kind of investigative reporting that the publication has been long known for..." The noble tone suggests there was some public good in this investigation, that it wasn't just cruel and invasive. After all, this isn't just a take-down of Bezos but also of MacKenzie Bezos, who, even if she knew about her husband's new relationship, didn't need to have to explain di*k shots to her children.

The argument is that the Enquirer regarded Bezos as fair game because of his wealth and power, the latter in particular.

We tend to regard the tech masters as benign characters, dorks who got lucky, while overlooking how they have led us by the nose into living our lives by their design. We think of Amazon as a wonderfully helpful addition to our lives, saving us from trawling the shops, easing our time-poor stresses, instead of a money-making world-domination enterprise that makes a billionaire of Bezos and potentially massacres on-the-ground retail employment.

Bezos isn't just hugely rich, he's hugely powerful and his influence extends to the media and his ownership of The Washington Post. And that is what turned a separation statement into the suggestion that the Bezos scandal was really a Trump-led take-down.

The US president has long been associated with the National Enquirer and American Media chief executive David Pecker. When Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations, he referred to a media organisation CEO with whom he worked, doing Trump's bidding. Last month, prosecutors said they had reached a deal with American Media Inc which involved no prosecutions and is alleged to have ended their positive relationship with Trump.

CNN has reported on the lack of Trump stories in the National Enquirer in recent times, having in the past observed the abundance of Trump positivity in the past, along with plenty of bad news regarding his opponents.

This serves to dispel any idea that Trump support drove the Bezos expose, though the president hasn't hidden his delight at seeing a foe fallen. When asked what he thought about the Bezos divorce statement, he said: "I wish him luck. It's going to be a beauty."

The statement suggested that, really and truly, their divorce would be a thing of beauty: civil, compassionate, caring. By the end of the week, that other Trump might have had a more accurate take on what is to come. As Ivana Trump famously said when she split from The Donald in 1992: "Don't get mad. Get even." Not very Gywneth and not very millennial. But maybe closer to the real-world truth.

Sunday Independent

Editors Choice

Also in this section