- In January 2019, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez were publicly outed as a couple the same day Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced their divorce.
- The National Enquirer had been investigating Bezos and Sanchez for months and had obtained leaked photos and texts the couple had sent, including the now-famous message where Bezos called Sanchez "alive girl."
- In the 18 months since, both Bezos and Sanchez have finalized their respective divorces and have embarked on a whirlwind romance that's taken them from Wimbledon to a yacht in St. Barths to the Taj Mahal.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
It's been a turbulent 18 months for Jeff Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez.
In January 2019, the bombshell news broke that the Amazon CEO and his wife, MacKenzie, were getting a divorce after 25 years of marriage. Hours later, we learned that Bezos was in a relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a TV host and helicopter pilot who, along with her husband, had been friends with the Bezoses.
Despite a tumultuous few months that involved leaked texts, blackmail, a billion-dollar divorce, and maybe even interference from the Saudi Arabian government, Bezos and Sanchez are still going strong.
Here's how their relationship became public and how they've spent the last year and a half as a couple.
SEE ALSO: A history of the 30-year feud between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, whose love-hate relationship spurred the success of Microsoft and Apple
It all started on January 9, 2019. Shortly after 9 a.m., Jeff and his wife, MacKenzie, issued a joint statement on Twitter that they were divorcing.
"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," the statement read. "If we had known we would separate after 25 years, we would do it all again."
MacKenzie is one of Amazon's earliest employees. The couple has four children together.
A mere few hours later, a second bombshell dropped: Bezos was in a relationship with Lauren Sanchez.
Sanchez started her career as a news reporter and anchor — she was a longtime anchor of "Good Day LA" on Fox 11 and worked as a correspondent on "Extra."
More recently, she's worked as a helicopter pilot and founded her own aerial filming company in 2016 called Black Ops Aviation. Bezos has hired Sanchez's company to film footage for his rocket company, Blue Origin.
Sanchez has also had TV and film roles, including as the host of the reality show "So You Think You Can Dance" and playing an anchor in movies like "Fight Club" and "The Day After Tomorrow," according to her IMDB page.
At the time, Sanchez was married to Patrick Whitesell, the co-CEO of WME, a Hollywood talent agency.
Sanchez and Whitesell had been married since 2005, but at the time the news broke, the couple had been separated since the fall, according to Page Six.
The couple was friends with Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos because they had houses near each other in Seattle, Page Six reported.
The National Enquirer said it had conducted a four-month investigation into Bezos and Sanchez's relationship and had obtained texts and photos the couple had sent to each other.
The Enquirer said it had tracked the couple "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."
Page Six, which published the news a few hours before the Enquirer, reported that Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos knew that the Enquirer report was coming out and had timed their divorce announcement to get ahead of the news.
The gossip site also reported at the time that Bezos and Sanchez started dating after Jeff and MacKenzie had separated the previous fall, and that MacKenzie knew of the relationship.
The Enquirer said it had gotten its hands on "raunchy messages" and "erotic selfies," including a text that reportedly read: "I love you, alive girl." The tabloid said it also had racy photos of both Bezos and Sanchez, including one that was too explicit to print.
Source: Business Insider
Almost immediately, questions arose about the Enquirer's motives for investigating Bezos and Sanchez and the tabloid's connection to President Trump.
A feud has simmered for years between Trump and Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, a frequent Trump target. The Enquirer's publisher, AMI, is run by David Pecker, a longtime Trump ally.
By the end of January, The Daily Beast reported that Bezos was funding an investigation into who had leaked his private messages to the Enquirer. Bezos' personal head of security, Gavin de Becker, headed up the investigation. De Becker said at the time that he thought the leaks were "politically motivated," which AMI denied.
The investigation initially pointed to Michael Sanchez, Lauren's brother and an outspoken Trump supporter, as the person who leaked the photos and texts, which Sanchez denied.
Then, in February, Bezos dropped a bombshell of his own: an explosive blog post titled "No thank you, Mr. Pecker," in which he accused Pecker and AMI of trying to blackmail him.
Bezos wrote that the publisher had been threatening him with the publication of explicit photos he'd taken of himself unless he stopped investigating who was leaking his photos and texts to the tabloid.
AMI also demanded that Bezos no longer claim the publisher's investigation into his personal life was influenced by political motivations, Bezos wrote.
As a result, Bezos published the emails he'd received from AMI.
"Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I've decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten," Bezos wrote.
Bezos also hinted in the post that there may have been a link between the investigation into his relationship with Sanchez and the Saudi Arabian government — specifically, that he might have been a target of the Saudis because he owns the Washington Post, which provided "unrelenting coverage," Bezos said, of the murder of its journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi agents. The "Saudi angle" of Bezos' own investigation into the leaks seemed to have "hit a particularly sensitive nerve" with Pecker, Bezos wrote.
For its part, the Saudi Arabian government denied any role in the situation and called the whole saga a "soap opera."
Things quieted down for Bezos and Sanchez publicly for a few months, until April, when Jeff and MacKenzie finalized the terms of their divorce.
Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos both released statements on Twitter saying they had "finished the process of dissolving" their marriage and would be co-parenting their four kids.
MacKenzie said she was granting Jeff all her interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin, as well as 75% of the Amazon stock they owned and voting control over the shares she retained. Her remaining stake in Amazon is estimated to be worth about $38 billion, placing her among the richest women in the world, according to Forbes.
One day later, Sanchez and Whitesell filed for divorce.
TMZ reported at the time that the couple asked for joint custody of their two children. The couple reportedly finalized their divorce in October.
The Bezos divorce was finalized in July. A few days later, Bezos and Sanchez made their first public appearance as a couple at Wimbledon.
The couple was seated behind the royals at the men's Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic at the All England Club.
The pair was spotted again in August on what appeared to be a fabulous European vacation: They were seen strolling through Saint-Tropez and cruising off the coast of Spain, in the Balearic Islands, aboard media mogul David Geffen's superyacht, the Rising Sun.
Other guests reportedly included Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the founder of Thrive Capital, Josh Kushner, along with his supermodel wife, Karlie Kloss. (The group was pictured in an Instagram post that has since been deleted.)
Bezos and Sanchez were then seen on fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg's sailing yacht off the coast of Italy. The couple appears to be close friends with von Furstenberg and her husband, IAC Chairman Barry Diller.
Source: Page Six
In December, Bezos reportedly threw Sanchez an elaborate 50th birthday celebration that included both a private dinner and a star-studded party attended by von Furstenberg and Diller, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, and Timothée Chalamet.
Source: Page Six
Around the holidays, the couple jetted off to French-speaking Caribbean island St. Barths, relaxing on yachts and meandering around the island with Sanchez's son, Nikko Gonzalez.
Source: The Cut
In January, Sanchez accompanied Bezos on a trip to India.
Sanchez attended Bezos' visit to Mahatma Gandhi's tomb and walked the red carpet with Bezos at an Amazon Prime Video event in Mumbai.
A few weeks later, Sanchez traveled with Bezos to another international event — this time, a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, France.
Since February, Bezos has been embroiled in a legal spat with Michael Sanchez, Lauren Sanchez's brother.
Sanchez filed a defamation lawsuit against Bezos in February, claiming Bezos and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, falsely accused him of providing Bezos' nude photos to the National Enquirer. Sanchez claimed in the suit that Bezos told journalists he had handed over the images to the tabloid, but he says he never had the photos in his possession.
Bezos said in a court filing of his own that the suit amounted to "extortion" and directly threatened free speech. Bezos sought to dismiss Sanchez's lawsuit under a California law that's intended to protect against frivolous lawsuits.
In the lawsuit, Sanchez used the word "fiancé" to describe Bezos' relationship to Lauren Sanchez, implying that the couple is engaged.
Here's the full sentence from the lawsuit (emphasis ours):
"While Mr. de Becker's initial asserted theory was that Mr. Sanchez had sold out his sister for $200,000, Mr. de Becker soon realized this theory would not hold up because, among other reasons, it was inconceivable that Mr. Sanchez would ruin his relationship with his sister and her current fiancé, the richest man in the world, for financial gain."
Bezos isn't described as Sanchez's fiancé anywhere else in the suit, and Bezos and Sanchez have never confirmed that they're engaged. In December, Page Six published photos of the couple on vacation, noting that Sanchez was wearing a large diamond ring on her right hand (engagement rings are worn on the left hand).
At the time lawyers for Michael Sanchez said in a statement, "Michael's complaint speaks for itself." Representatives for Bezos and Sanchez did not respond to requests for comment.
News broke in February that Bezos had reportedly purchased the Warner estate, a massive Beverly Hills compound, for $165 million. The purchase was the most expensive home sale in California history.
Prior to the sale, The New York Post reported that Bezos and Sanchez had been house-hunting in Los Angeles and touring mansions throughout the area for weeks.
The Warner estate was built by Hollywood mogul and Warner Bros. cofounder Jack Warner in 1937. It spans eight acres and is situated in the Benedict Canyon neighborhood of Beverly Hills. It's an incredibly private property that's surrounded by tall hedges, blocked off by a large gate, and completely hidden from view from the street.
The compound is home to multiple dwellings, including two guesthouses and a 13,600-square-foot mansion. The estate also features a pool, tennis court, and manicured gardens, as well as a nine-hole golf course and a "motor court" with its own garage and gas pumps, according to Architectural Digest.