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Jeff Bezos: The discreet Amazon founder’s transition to the bling-bling king

Five years after his divorce from Mackenzie Tuttle, the tycoon’s public exposure has increased because of his media-friendly courtship with Lauren Sanchez, featuring diamonds, yachts, mansion and parties with his famous friends

Jeff Bezos
Lauren Sanchez and Jeff Bezos.Lionel Hahn (Getty Images)
María Porcel

Until five years ago, Jeff Bezos’ private life was just that: private. In fact, it was extremely private. Beyond the business press, people knew little of the existence of Amazon’s founder, now the third-richest man in the world. His personal information was what the company disseminated in its official communications: he was married, had four children, lived in Seattle. But at the beginning of 2019, his divorce and a new romance turned his world upside down. The five years since then have shown that his relationship with Lauren Sanchez — who was first his friend’s wife, then his friend, then his girlfriend, now his fiancée and in a few months his wife — was not merely a fling; Sanchez has been the catalyst for the changes in Bezos’s life.

Jeff Bezos was so discreet that he bordered on seriousness, even solemnity. His less severe side came through only in his laugh, which was so cackling and booming that it garnered millions of views on YouTube and could be downloaded by Amazon employees from the company’s intranet. He didn’t own fancy cars and was an engineer who graduated cum laude from Princeton. Having set up the world’s largest online bookstore with his partner in a garage, he fit the romantic West Coast narrative of the 2000s. But when his marriage to Mackenzie Bezos ended, so did his armor of monastic simplicity. The so-called austere millionaire disappeared. He gave way to a man who evolved from walking the red carpet to gracing magazine covers and throwing huge engagement parties in Beverly Hills mansions.

It is true that Bezos’s business model has evolved, and so have his career and public image. Amazon became much more than a bookstore, and the role of its founder was much more than a bookseller or the head of a company with a small staff: it now has 1.5 million employees worldwide and is worth $143 billion on the stock market. As Amazon began to enter the film and television market and became more glamorous, its owners followed suit. In 2012, Jeff and Mackenzie attended their first Met Gala, which their company had sponsored. In 2017, they went to the Oscars, having produced Manchester by the Sea; the ceremony’s host, Jimmy Kimmel, even poked some fun at them. But that’s as far as it went. Now, it is much more common to see Bezos at such glamorous events. His job is also different. He no longer presides over his empire; in mid-2021, he ceded his position to Andy Jassy. That gave Bezos more freedom and even the opportunity to play around with his image.

Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos at the Met Gala in New York, in 2012.
Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos at the Met Gala in New York, in 2012.Lars Niki (Corbis via Getty Images)

In January 2019, Bezos and his wife divorced, and his fortune of $164 billion had to be divided. It took them only three months to reach an agreement: Mackenzie Bezos (née Tuttle) received Amazon shares worth $35 billion; the Amazon founder was left with about $107 billion, as well as The Washington Post newspaper and his beloved space company, Blue Origin. That’s when Bezos’s public image began to shift. Just weeks after his divorce, the paparazzi caught him leaving a New York pizzeria with Sanchez, a well-known TV host in California, who is six years his junior, a pilot and the owner of a helicopter company; she had recently separated from celebrity agent Patrick Whitesell (their 2005 wedding was attended by everyone from Steven Spielberg to Ben Affleck). And since then, photographers have not stopped following them.

They’ve been willing participants. The change in their lives has been as spectacular as the 30-carat pink diamond Bezos gave his now-fiancée last summer aboard his boat, Koru, which means “new beginnings” in Maori. It is a three-masted, 127-meter yacht, the largest in the world; Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, Usher, and other celebrities have vacationed there. One night, the couple dined on deck and returned to their cabin. She found the ring under her pillow. “I think I passed out a little bit,” Sanchez told Vogue this week. The magazine wrote a lengthy article about her; the interview was conducted in Bezos’s 1,600-square-kilometer ranch in Texas, and Bezos allowed himself to be photographed; the pictures have become an Internet meme, for their artificiality. He also prepared some perfect margaritas for the interviewee and the interviewer. Of course, he also spoke about her: “She has really helped me put more energy into my relationships… She’s always encouraging me: ‘Call your kids. Call your dad. Call your mom.’ And she’s also just a very good role model.” Sanchez returned the praise: “He’s the life of the party… He’s just extremely enthusiastic, and extremely funny.”

The couple’s lifestyle and media exposure starkly contrast with the tycoon’s relatively simple daily life during his 30 years in Seattle. Now everything about him has changed, including his city of residence. At the beginning of November, he announced that he was moving to Miami, where he bought two adjoining mansions in the exclusive Indian Creek area. He will be closer to his parents, who also run the Bezos Family Foundation, and to Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin’s home base. He’ll also be closer to parties, like the ones he already throws, and to the sea.

Lauren Sánchez and Jeff Bezos aboard the Kura in Portofino, Italy, in June 2023.
Lauren Sánchez and Jeff Bezos aboard the Kura in Portofino, Italy, in June 2023.MEGA (GC Images)

Because of their respective divorce agreements and their children (he has four, who are already in college; she is the mother of a 22-year-old, who lives in New York; a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old), Bezos and Sanchez had been dividing their time between Seattle and Los Angeles, although they also spend long periods at the ranch in Texas and at the billionaire’s residences in New York, Washington, D.C. and Maui. Los Angeles has become the perfect backdrop for their new social life. Last weekend, they threw a huge engagement party there. It was held at the Beverly Hills mansion of designer Diane von Furstenberg and Fox founder Barry Diller; the couple is among Bezos’s best friends. Diller declared that Lauren is “the sparkler in Jeff’s life… She’s lit him up in the nicest ways. She’s a great stimulant.”

The party was tabloid fodder, although the photos inside were published exclusively in Vogue. The fête was attended by Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand, Salma Hayek, Robert Pattinson and Kim Kardashian (she and Lauren are good friends; the reality star told Vogue in an interview that they send each other a lot of private Instagram messages) and her mother, Kris Jenner. It was the second party they threw; the first was a small, intimate affair aboard the Koru with guests Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and Queen Rania of Jordan, among others. All we know about the wedding is that Sanchez is eager to take her future husband’s surname. We still do not know whether it will be held in the U.S. or in Europe, who the guests will be or what the dress will look like. While the details are not yet clear, it seems certain that the wedding will not be discreet.

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