At least Lauren Sanchez is age-appropriate. We can say that much for Jeff Bezos, 58, who is, depending on the day, either the world’s richest man or somewhere in the top three.
When the news surfaced in early 2019 that the Amazon founder was leaving his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Scott, for Sanchez, a onetime entertainment-TV anchor, it was moderately reassuring to note that the then 49-year-old was not a character lifted directly out of The First Wives Club.
If anything, Sanchez, who favors transparent eveningwear and must have an impressive stock of boob tape, gave off more of a Goldie Hawn vibe than the barely legal trophy who takes her place in the film.
“You Know What I Want?”
The news that there was another woman came out, you’ll remember, mere minutes after Bezos and Scott announced that their divorce was final, and then re-entered the headlines a few weeks later, after the National Enquirer released a cache of raunchy love texts to Sanchez that had been leaked from Bezos’s phone.
Bezos suspected Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman of the original hack, due to the work of the anti-regime writer Jamal Khashoggi at The Washington Post, which Bezos owns. But it turned out that the source of the leak to the Enquirer was reportedly Sanchez’s own brother, Michael, whom Bezos is currently suing. Interesting family dynamics there.
For all the drama surrounding them, the texts were almost reassuringly anodyne. “You know what I want?,” Bezos wrote. “I want to get a little drunk with you tonight. Not falling down. Just a little drunk. I want to talk to you and plan with you. Listen and laugh.” He is nothing if not precise.
He is also desperately, cringily in love. And this love is the source of his much-talked-about new muscles, too-tight clothing, wrinkle-free face, and relatively newfound presence on Instagram, where he is developing a yen for snuggly selfies and sentimental cross-posting.
Much is now known about Sanchez, the catalyst of #bestlife Jeff. Her previous marriage was to Patrick Whitesell, W.M.E.’s co-C.E.O., who represents Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Ryan Reynolds, and Denzel Washington, among other above-the-title actors. Sanchez was the onetime host of So You Think You Can Dance, a reality-television show. She is self-made, both in front of the camera (she was also a local Fox anchor and correspondent for the syndicated show Extra) and behind the controls of a helicopter.
A licensed pilot, she started an aerial-cinematography company which Bezos reportedly hired in 2016 to film his Blue Origin space project—you know, the penis rocket. This is when most insiders believe the affair began.
Bezos and Sanchez blended their families quickly. Their kids hang out with them, and they now spend a lot of time with former N.F.L. tight end Tony Gonzalez, the father of Sanchez’s eldest child, and his new wife, even just as couple friends. They are also now officially hanging out with Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian, who came over to Bezos’s new Beverly Hills estate for dinner last month. This is precisely the sort of matchup that tabloids were invented for.
“A lot of us wanted to roll our eyes at Lauren at first,” says a former Amazon employee who had frequent contact with the couple. “But the thing is, she seeks joy. She goes out of her way to be kind to crew and staffers. She has that Bill Clinton–like gift of making you feel like the most important person in the room.”
When Bezos recently took Blue Origin into space, Sanchez was waiting on the tarmac to give him a hero’s welcome in a matching cowboy hat. (Note: what works for Kevin Costner in Yellowstone does not work for everyone.)
Before the arrival of Sanchez, Bezos was one of the least showy members of the three-comma club. He was an operations guy, who just wanted to get your Christmas presents out on time, come hell or high water. (Or pandemic, when Amazon’s share price doubled.) He’d leave the edgelording to Elon and the establishment of a terrifying, Fascist V.R. dystopia to Zuckerberg.
“A lot of us wanted to roll our eyes at Lauren at first. But the thing is, she seeks joy. She goes out of her way to be kind to crew and staffers. She has that Bill Clinton–like gift of making you feel like the most important person in the room.”
Bezos has long been known as an exceptionally exacting micro-manager, encouraging a confrontational style at Amazon. But most of us heard about him only when his or Amazon’s worst practices—warehouses with Dickensian working conditions, his seeming aversion to charity despite all his wealth—made headlines.
Now that we have witnessed a Sanchez-era transformation worthy of Pygmalion by way of the New York Post, the question must be asked: In his private life, is Bezos, for all his corporate alpha status, a relationship beta, letting his lady set the tone? Maybe it is actually kind of sweet.
From Philanderer to Philanthropist
The Bezos women wield outsize influence, even if by their absence. After the divorce, Scott, a novelist with yoga-toned arms and a penchant for red-carpet simplicity, whose brown hair is a pleasant afterthought, backed out of the public eye completely.
Her one big gesture was to sign the Giving Pledge to dispose of the majority of her fluctuating but approximately $50 billion divorce settlement. Her approach to giving—no-questions-asked grants to social-justice organizations run by people with their own skin in the game—flies in the face of the more typical large donor who’s looking to put his or her name on the side of a building.
(Who can forget Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 $75 million donation to the hospital where his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, used to work. Now it’s Zuckerberg San Francisco General. It must make Chan’s happy-hour reunions a little awkward.)
The beautiful shade of Scott’s gesture was how it spotlighted Bezos’s miserliness without saying anything at all. Recently, Scott married a high-school science teacher, Dan Jewett, who taught at her kids’ school, and the world only found out in March, when Jewett let it slip on Scott’s Giving Pledge Web page. Beyond that page, if you want to call Scott to talk to her about her philanthropy, good luck. She is the living example of Coco Chanel’s belief that elegance is refusal.
Bezos tossed around a few million here and there to worthy causes but only conspicuously dipped his toe into the world of charity in 2018, before the announcement of his split with Scott, but after his dalliance with Sanchez was rumored to have started. (Though the couple claims they waited until Bezos was divorced from Scott, and Sanchez from Whitesell, they were spotted conspicuously in each other’s company as early as 2017.)
Bezos did so by revealing a new skill for trolling, asking his 3.5 million Twitter followers whom he should give his money to. (He got 47,000 answers; though, to be fair, many of those simply read, “Me.”) Now that he has decided to step down from his position as Amazon’s C.E.O., he’s turned up the attention to giving even higher, like his taste in splashy eveningwear. And despite MacKenzie’s obvious seriousness about giving, it’s obvious the reason is Sanchez, whom Bezos has looped in as co-chair of the $10 billion Bezos Earth Fund. (These gifts from big-money donors are generally in lieu of paying regular taxes, as most of us do.)
“Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sanchez are embracing their shared love for helping others,” says a People-magazine piece that reads like it was written by the couple’s publicist. “You can see and hear their excitement when they meet with partners on the climate, education and homelessness work.”
Previously, Sanchez was not especially known for her ecological bona fides, though she makes up for it in enthusiasm now. The goal of the Bezos Earth Fund is to support existing organizations to remove blockages to eventual carbon neutrality. Never mind that we could get a long way there simply by reducing Amazon’s own footprint, and maybe not taking leisurely flights into space in alpha rut with other billionaires.
Sanchez is clearly embracing her role, even if her presence at audiences with Emmanuel Macron feels like the modern equivalent of Marion Davies, the actress gal pal that William Randolph Hearst kept trying to make happen.
Sanchez has been schooling Bezos in the art of Instagram, which he started to embrace not long after the rumored beginning of the affair. (Social-media peacocking is a form of modern seduction, after all.) You’ll still see her in mink slides in her helicopter with her Pomeranian in the passenger seat, and the New Year’s Eve party picture that introduced the world to Bezos in Lolita shades and a really too-tight shirt. Both were on her Instagram account.
She treats the world to the gushiest-ever love notes—“Yes everyone knows you are brilliant.… They don’t see the man who wants everyone to feel joy, who’s [sic] heart is immeasurable and who’s [sic] ability to love is infinite,” she wrote to accompany a Bezos slideshow for his 58th birthday. But most everything else is dedicated to Bezos’s philanthropy and her supporting role.
We’ll see how it goes for the Earth Fund, which has only just started making big grants. The true cringe comes with the Bezos Academy, which has been established to provide free early-childhood education to underserved communities. It has a Montessori-adjacent pedagogy. Bezos was Montessori-educated himself, but he has, for unclear reasons, decided to forgo funding the original organization in favor of starting his own thing with his name on it. This is all much to the consternation of early-childhood-education activists, whose near-consensus opinion is that the money would be better spent without a new player entering the fray.
But then, with boring old established school endowments you don’t get the T-shirts and the mugs or the short films of kids cheering you and only you. Sanchez often accompanies Bezos to Bezos Academy photo ops, in full looks and major jewelry, the one spot on the Venn diagram where she, Melania Trump, and A$AP Rocky could be said to converge.
For the corporate leader who instills frugality as a core tenet—“Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention,” reads Amazon’s “Leadership Principles”—the only thing that’s missing now is a super-yacht.
The St. Barths holidays this year, where the paparazzi feasted on the couple in skimpy swimwear and their extended families, took place on a chartered tub. Worry not, Bezos will soon be setting sail on Y721, a $500 million–plus, 417-foot-long boat with its own, ancillary super-yacht tender to transport passengers to and from the mothership. It’s being built by Oceanco, which has specialized in ecological technology. (One of their yachts is said by the company to be able to cross the Atlantic “without burning even a liter of fossil fuel.”)
Unfortunately for citizens of the city of Rotterdam, where the ship was built, its gargantuan size may make it impossible to put it out to sea without temporarily dismantling the Koningshaven Bridge, an icon of early-20th-century engineering that was repaired after Nazi bombardments. Unfortunately for Sanchez, its three masts will make it impossible for her to land her helicopter directly on board. The Pomeranian will just have to do the crossing in her purse.
Alexandra Marshall is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL. She is a contributor to W, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and Travel + Leisure. Marshall recently relocated from Paris to Le Perche