Jeff Bezos was sued for defamation by his girlfriend’s brother in a lawsuit accusing the Amazon.com Inc. chief executive officer of falsely claiming the brother provided lurid photographs to the National Enquirer.
The lawsuit was filed late Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Michael Sanchez, the brother of Lauren Sanchez and subject of media reports that he was a source for the Enquirer’s splashy report last year revealing the affair between his sister and Bezos.
The story has expanded into an international controversy, now involving allegations that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince participated in a hack of Bezos’ phone and an investigation by federal prosecutors in New York.
The lawsuit also names Gavin de Becker, a security consultant who works for Bezos, as a defendant. It accuses Bezos and de Becker of telling journalists that Michael Sanchez provided graphic nude photographs of the Amazon CEO to the tabloid.
In the filing, Michael Sanchez acknowledges he entered a confidential agreement to “cooperate strategically” with American Media Inc., the National Enquirer’s parent company, but said he did so to “get ahead of the story” in an effort to limit the backlash against his sister and Bezos.
He says he didn’t provide the photographs to the Enquirer and couldn’t have been the source for them because he never possessed them.
A lawyer for Bezos, William Isaacson, said Bezos would respond to the accusations in court.
“Michael is my older brother,” Lauren Sanchez said in a statement provided by her lawyer, Terry Bird. “He secretly provided my most personal information to the National Enquirer -- a deep and unforgivable betrayal. My family is hurting over this new baseless and untrue lawsuit, and we truly hope my brother finds peace.”
De Becker did not respond to a message seeking comment.
A United Nations report last month accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of possible complicity in the hack of Bezos’ phone, based on an analysis conducted by a consulting firm hired by Bezos. Saudi Arabia has denied the allegation, and the report did not link Saudi Arabia’s alleged actions to the Enquirer report.
At the time the Bezos story was published, AMI was already operating under a nonprosecution agreement with the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, after admitting its role in hush-money payments made to women who allegedly had affairs with President Trump.
In a blog post shortly after the Enquirer’s story about the affair, Bezos accused the tabloid of extortion and blackmail in its handling of the story. That prompted prosecutors to reopen their investigation to determine if AMI had violated its nonprosecution agreement. That investigation was still ongoing as of late last year, according to people familiar with it.