Lauren Sánchez has been a TV personality for over two decades. But in 2019 she began to experience a level of media scrutiny more intense than she’d ever dealt with before. When your new boyfriend is the recently-divorced richest man in the world, though, perhaps this is to be expected.
Starting An Empire
When Jeff Bezos quit his steady finance job in 1994 to open an e-commerce bookstore from his garage, he couldn’t have predicted the unprecedented success he would experience. The Amazon website launched on July 16, 1995. Within two months Bezos and his small team were selling $20,000 of books throughout the United States.
Richest Man In History
Amazon would become the world’s biggest internet sales company. In 2018 it was valued at an astonishing $1 trillion, with Bezos’ personal net worth of $150 billion enough to make him the wealthiest man in modern history. Indeed, Amazon is now such a behemoth that Bezos’ net worth managed to grow by $24 billion during the COVID pandemic.
Bezos’ insane wealth has allowed him to diversify into other business interests, too. He bought The Washington Post newspaper in 2013 for $250 million, for instance, and he founded the Blue Origin aerospace company in 2000. Its goal is to enable commercial human spaceflight. In other words: space tourism.
But on January 9, 2019 the usually private Bezos dropped a bombshell on Twitter. He posted a short statement about his marriage to wife MacKenzie. It read, “As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends.” Wow!
“We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other,” continued Bezos. “If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again.” He added, “Though the labels might be different, we remain a family, and we remain cherished friends.”
An even bigger bombshell dropped the very next day, though. The National Enquirer published an explosive expose of Bezos’ lengthy affair with news anchor Sánchez and his divorce announcement began to look suspiciously timed. Many wondered if Bezos had simply been trying to get ahead of the salacious article he knew was coming.
Following The Scandal
The Enquirer claimed it had been looking into Bezos and Sánchez’ affair for four months. It claimed to have followed them, “across five states and 40,000 miles, tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and ‘quality time’ in hidden love nests.” Yet The Enquirer wasn’t the only outlet to report on the relationship.
Page Six reported Bezos was indeed aware The Enquirer was about to publish pictures of he and Sánchez together. He therefore reportedly announced the divorce himself in an attempt to control the narrative. It would later be claimed by two sources that Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of The Enquirer’s owner American Media, was livid at Bezos for spoiling their scoop.
As well as pictures, the gossip magazine's “scoop” included a series of racy texts allegedly sent by Bezos to Sánchez. For instance, a message sent in May 2018 read, “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight…I want to kiss your lips…I love you.”
The month before that, Bezos had allegedly written, “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.” Another said, “I want to kiss you right now and tuck you in slowly and gently. And maybe in the morning wake you up and not be quite so gentle with you.”
While details about Bezos and Sánchez’ relationship would continue to be dragged up, his divorce from MacKenzie proceeded. And the dissolving of their union was confirmed in April 2019, with MacKenzie being allocated a quarter of his Amazon shares. This gave her a four percent stake in the company, worth a staggering $35 billion. So a good settlement then, eh?
Regarding the breakdown of Bezos and MacKenzie’s relationship, a source told Page Six in January 2019, “Jeff and MacKenzie tried very hard to work things out. They separated last year, then Jeff and Lauren started dating.” According to this source, Bezos’ wife was fully aware of his new relationship. They revealed, “MacKenzie knew they were dating; the news today was not a surprise to her.”
Richest Woman In The World
In March 2021 it was revealed that MacKenzie had remarried. She’d tied the knot with Dan Jewett, a private school science teacher from Seattle. And by September 2020 her net worth had ballooned to $68 billion, making her the richest woman in the world, but she had already set about giving large chunks of it away.
Sharing The Wealth
Because MacKenzie has given over $8 billion of her fortune to various charities, since her divorce. She signed the Giving Pledge, an initiative which encourages billionaires to donate the majority of their wealth to philanthropic efforts, less than two months after her divorce was finalized. In a letter announcing her intentions, she wrote, “I have a disproportionate amount of money to share.”
Picking Her Causes
And in December 2020 MacKenzie donated almost $4.2 billion to 384 different organizations. They included legal defense funds, debt-forgiveness programs, food banks, and Meals on Wheels. It followed the $1.7 billion she gave in July to organizations that work with women and the LGBTQ community. She also donated to historically underfunded black colleges.
A System In Need Of Change
Then in June 2021 she announced she’d distributed $2.7 billion to another 286 organizations. These included entities which helped domestic abuse victims. She wrote on Medium, “Me, Dan, a constellation of researchers and administrators and advisors – we are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change.”
MacKenzie emphasized the importance of redistributing her wealth. She wrote, “We are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.”
Speaking of MacKenzie’s ex, Page Six claimed that Bezos had been spotted with Sánchez as early as October 2018, while he was still married. This was the month in which unnamed sources alleged they spotted he and a woman who closely resembled Sánchez at the members only Casa Tua club in Miami. Page Six also revealed that Sánchez had been a friend of the Bezos’ for years.
Blue Origin Project
They were initially introduced through Bezos’ dealings with Sánchez’ then-husband, Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell. A source told Page Six, “Patrick and Lauren have socialized with Jeff Bezos and his wife for a few years, because both couples have houses in Seattle. Then Lauren was hired to work on one of Bezos’ projects, ‘Blue Origin,’ a space-launch company, as a helicopter pilot.”
Bezos’ hiring of Sánchez, a qualified helicopter pilot and owner of company Black Ops Aviation, was reportedly one of the first things that tipped Amazon executives to their boss having an affair. They were confused to see him putting so much money into Black Ops, according to the New York Post. Why? Well, according to his biographer Brad Stone, Bezos hates helicopters.
Sharing A Passion
Bezos mightn’t have liked helicopters, but he most certainly liked Sánchez, and so may have wanted to share her passion. Or at least wanted to seem like he shared it. She had pivoted into the realm of aerial filming in 2017 when she acted as a consultant on Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk. And this job came soon after she earned her pilot’s license in June 2016.
Dipping In Hollywood
It made sense for Sánchez to combine her love of flying with moviemaking, as she has cameoed in several films over the years. She appeared in the likes of Fight Club, The Day After Tomorrow, Fantastic Four, White House Down and Ted 2, playing reporters or newscasters. This history likely meant she had lots of Hollywood connections in her back
Sánchez told The Hollywood Reporter (THR) that she started learning how to fly in 2011 while still working as a news anchor. It was in her blood; her father Ray plied his trade as a mechanic who worked on planes and as a flight instructor. Despite this, she initially showed no interest as a youth, revealing, “I was always in the hangar growing up but knew nothing about flying.”
Combining Her Dreams
Once she started flying as an adult, though, that all changed. A passion grew within her, so she began studying even harder and taking more lessons. She told THR, “I had my job, I had a career, and then I found a calling. I loved entertainment and I loved filming, and so I got to combine all of it.”
Learning The Ropes
In 2016 Sánchez co-founded Black Ops Aviation with Steve Safford of the production company Studio Wings. It was Safford who taught Sánchez how to accomplish specific helicopter camera shots which are used in movies. She worked out of Santa Monica Airport, which is where she kept her helicopter, nicknamed Whiskey Whiskey, and a Cirrus plane.
Sánchez told THR, “I want to be in a helicopter all the time. Life can be so chaotic with so much going on. Lift off and you’re in an energy space that no one else is in. It’s calming. When I’m up there, I’m completely satisfied. I’m like, ‘This is where I need to be.’”
In the wake of the revelation of her affair with Bezos, Sánchez certainly would have needed her time in the helicopter to get away from the chaos on the ground. She and Whitesell filed for divorce in April 2019, only one day after Bezos’ own divorce was finalized. By October their marriage was over, with the couple agreeing to share custody of their two children.
Sánchez and Whitesell were married for 13 years and used a divorce lawyer known for working with celebrities. Laura Wasser had previously mediated divorce agreements for the likes of Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Garner. It was a sad, but perhaps fitting, state of affairs for a couple who invited a bevy of Hollywood celebs to their wedding in 2005.
The situation had the potential to be professionally devastating for Whitesell. Because a source in Hollywood told Page Six that he had found himself in an unenviable position, with the eyes of the world upon him. And his status as part of a media frenzy was something he would have cautioned his famous clients to steer clear of.
“He advises clients how to stay out of this kind of position,” claimed the source. “He’s never had this kind of scrutiny before. People close to him say he’s really embarrassed, particularly because Bezos was a friend. And even worse, there’s no way Patrick or his big clients can avoid Amazon and Bezos.”
Taking no notice of any marital strife, Sánchez and Bezos began stepping out together at public events mere days after his divorce came through. In July 2019 they attended Wimbledon, even sitting behind members of the British Royal Family. Then they were seen in Saint-Tropez in August, before taking a cruise on David Geffen’s yacht off the coast of Spain.
In December 2019 Bezos and Sánchez were snapped on the island of St. Barts on another vacation. But this time Sánchez’ son Nikko Gonzalez was reportedly with them. Nikko was born in 2001 to Sánchez and ex-NFL player Tony Gonzalez. So it seemed that at least one member of her family was cool with the Bezos relationship.
50th Birthday Blowout
Sánchez’ 50th birthday rolled around in January 2020 and Bezos threw her two parties. The first was a dinner with family, but the second was an extravagant event at a Beverly Hills mansion. This shindig was attended by a host of celebs, including Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom, Timothée Chalamet and Scooter Braun.
A Different Jeff
Yet the parade of celebrities surrounding Bezos and Sánchez has led some people, who have known the Amazon CEO for a long time, to believe he has changed. One former colleague told Page Six’s The Post, “I’ve known Jeff since the early days of Amazon and his recent behavior is nothing that I would expect from him. This is not the Jeff that I knew.”
Flashing His Wealth
Some Page Six observers believe that, even though Bezos is the wealthiest man in the world, he wasn’t ostentatious with his riches until he hooked up with Sánchez. Indeed, when he was married to MacKenzie, they mostly led their lives away from the spotlight. She was reportedly uncomfortable with attention, whereas Sánchez thrives in the public eye.
A former friend of Sánchez, who almost certainly had an axe to grind with the couple, told Page Six, “Jeff has clearly ‘gone Hollywood’. Risky fashion choices, lunch with Anna Wintour, a non stop barrage of shameless selfies with A-listers. He’s a narcissist with poor judgment, and Lauren is calling the shots.”
In Their Defense
But not everyone close to Bezos agrees with this assessment. To say that Bezos and Sánchez are publicity hounds because they attend the Academy Awards ceremony to hang around with A-list actors is disingenuous. Because in reality Amazon Studios produces films, including Manchester By The Sea, which was up for Best Picture in 2017.
“Jeff started going to the Oscars and the Oscars parties 15 years ago,” confirmed an unnamed company source. “Amazon’s expansion and his profile have gone hand-in-hand; of course, people are more interested in his personal life now. He went on Barry Diller’s yacht for the first time in 2015, people just didn’t report on it.”
Beating The Odds
Regardless of anyone’s feelings about his wealth or courting of celebrity, though, it’s likely Bezos will keep doing exactly what he wants. And what he wants is to be with Sánchez. As a source told Page Six, “They think the universe has brought them together – and who knows, they may be right. I don’t know any other celebrity couple who could have survived what they did.”