LOS ANGELES — The first of dozens of emails sent by Michael Sanchez to The Washington Post arrived days after the National Enquirer published a 12-page spread exposing an extramarital affair between Lauren Sanchez and Jeffrey P. Bezos.
“For obvious reasons, I can’t go into detail on email and all of my communications must be completely Confidential,” it began, with no advance agreement of confidentiality. “I’m reaching out to you, off-the-record. I will be your single point-of-contact for anything Lauren-related. I’d appreciate it if we can keep open (one) line of communication.”
The message from Sanchez, who is Lauren’s brother and a talent manager in Hollywood, dropped in a Washington Post reporter’s inbox without warning. His missives often carry the subject line: CONFIDENTIAL/FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY, followed by long messages with bullet points and accusations in all caps, occasionally in bold font.
He’s passionate about the story involving his sister and the richest man in the world, and about what he says is the “whole truth,” which he vows will eventually come out.
Tabloids and celebrity magazines rely on figures such as Sanchez for their scoops. They are the “friends” and sources close to those friends who fuel the sometimes laudatory, sometimes vicious celebrity gossip ecosystem.
He is at the center of inquiries into how the National Enquirer obtained the salacious, private text messages exchanged between his sister and Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post. Two people familiar with discussions between Sanchez and the Enquirer confirmed a Daily Beast report that Sanchez provided the tabloid with some of the couple’s texts.
Sanchez, who has a long relationship with tabloids, did not specifically deny that he’d leaked text messages. He said he did not possess the explicit photos Bezos referred to in a recent post accusing the Enquirer and its owner, American Media (AMI), of blackmail and extortion. “There is one piece of evidence that’s exculpatory: I never in a million years would be able to give Jeff’s [naked] pix to AMI because I never had them. If AMI has them, they came from others. Period,” Sanchez said. He added that he refused to “dignify” with a response “baseless smears” that he provided AMI with any of the couple’s text messages.
“My focus now is to encourage journalists to shift focus from the silly ‘whodunit’ drama and ‘anonymous’ sources to the mountain of real news involved in this sordid saga,” Sanchez wrote in an email, pointing to what he indicated was Bezos’s mishandling of the matter and a list of other culprits.
What is the real news he’s after? Sanchez has a list of questions about Bezos’s relationship with his sister and the aftermath of AMI’s story on the affair. They include: Who leaked the couple’s intimate pictures? Is there any real evidence that President Trump or Saudi Arabia was involved? Why did Bezos announce his divorce on Twitter?
Shortly after this story published online, Sanchez emailed the following statement: “Since January 7th, I’ve been accused by ‘anonymous’ sources and leaky ‘Amazon investigators’ of just about everything, including involvement in an international conspiracy theory involving President Trump, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and conservative operatives trying to ‘take down’ Jeff Bezos. I haven’t dignified any of it because I know the whole truth . . .
“It’s pretty simple: Jeff Bezos had an extramarital affair, lied about it in his tone-deaf ‘divorce’ tweet and has engaged in a scorched-earth campaign to cover up responsibility for the demise of two families and the failure to protect the privacy and technology of the man practically owns the cloud, culminating in a Washington Post hit piece written by Sarah Ellison, the writer I handpicked to tell the whole truth.”
Sanchez has a small, fit build, dark hair, and clear-framed Warby Parker glasses. He is a serious amateur tennis player and said he has kept his client list trim by design. "I play tennis every single day. I travel the world when I want to travel. I have an amazing life that's been free from the limelight until now," he said.
Sanchez said he started working at ICM, a Hollywood talent agency, in the 1990s around the same time as his sister’s estranged husband, Patrick Whitesell, entered the business. Whitesell is the executive director of Endeavor, an entertainment holding company.
At varying times, he’s registered to vote as a Democrat, other times as a Republican. He’s a vocal supporter of President Trump, but could not recall voting in the 2016 election. (Voting records indicate that he voted as a Republican in the 2016 primary and general elections.)
His cadence is quick, and he is armed with documents and emails and contracts, some of them unexecuted, that he presents as proof of myriad claims about his clients and background.
Sometimes, according to former clients, he sells their stories to a tabloid — often one owned by AMI — to help them, he said in one case, to “move the ball forward.”
Bezos sought, in the wake of the Enquirer story about his love life, to figure out how the tabloid obtained the material and asked his longtime security consultant, Gavin de Becker, to investigate. De Becker’s inquiry led him to Sanchez as a suspected leaker. Then, Sanchez said he launched his own investigation into how the tabloid got the information.
Sanchez now argues he is being painted as the villain by anonymous sources who are “motivated” to “stay out of jail,” a possible reference to the non-prosecution agreement between federal prosecutors and the Enquirer’s David Pecker and Dylan Howard. The agreement was reached as part of an investigation into the tabloid’s catch-and-kill scheme to assist Trump in the 2016 election by not publishing salacious stories harmful to Trump’s campaign. The deal is contingent on their not doing anything criminal, and Sanchez maintains he is being scapegoated as the leaker partly so that AMI officials can avoid more legal trouble.
Sanchez also lays blame on de Becker, saying that the security consultant is trying to keep Bezos and his sister apart and may have been involved in leaking information himself to the Enquirer. Sanchez said his main goal now — in addition to clearing his name — is to protect his sister and her relationship from de Becker’s control. But he also lays blame on Lauren and said she showed photos of Bezos to her friends, who may have in turn shared them with the Enquirer.
According to people who’ve spoken to Lauren Sanchez recently, she feels betrayed by her brother and the two are not speaking. A representative for Lauren Sanchez declined to comment on the record.
Jon Hammond, a spokesman for AMI, declined to comment on the Enquirer’s sourcing but referred to a previous statement saying that the company “believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.”
De Becker told the Daily Beast that he had concluded his investigation about how texts got to the National Enquirer and handed the results to the authorities. He has previously denied Sanchez’s allegation, and he has stopped responding to Sanchez’s multiplying claims against him.
Lauren Sanchez is not the first of her brother's clients who has been the subject of an exclusive feature in AMI publications.
Tamara Holder, an attorney in Chicago, hired Michael Sanchez as her manager and publicist at the tail end of her contract as a Democratic legal analyst on Fox News.
Holder alleged sexual harassment by a Fox News executive and reached a settlement with the company in March 2017, which the New York Times reported. But according to emails obtained by The Washington Post, Sanchez pushed Holder to get more publicity for her case by offering a story with “exclusive inside details” to Radar Online, a gossip site owned by American Media.
Email communication between Holder and Sanchez include drafts of an article that he wrote for Radar with quotes from “insiders” saying that she settled with Fox for “more than $5 million,” a figure that was twice as much as the monetary value of Holder’s reported settlement. Sanchez tried to persuade Holder to allow Radar to publish by saying the story “moves the ball forward,” according to the email communication. When Holder refused to let Sanchez place the story on the gossip site, he told her she was making “another huge PR mistake.”
In other emails Sanchez points out the previous PR mistake — providing too much detail to the New York Times. Holder’s doing so blew up Sanchez’s public relations plan for her, which involved creating a narrative that her settlement was larger than Gretchen Carlson’s $20 million settlement, which was false.
Sanchez said the emails were taken out of context and he was proud of his work on behalf of Holder.
He also manages former Fox News regular Scottie Nell Hughes, who said she has a contractual relationship with Sanchez that ends in April. Hughes was a frequent guest on the cable news network before she sued in September 2017 alleging that she had been raped by Charles Payne, a Fox Business host, and was retaliated against by the network. Payne denied that his sexual relationship with Hughes was nonconsensual. He was suspended temporarily, but after a law firm’s investigation of the matter and a public apology, he returned to his job.
According to a person with direct knowledge of the matter, Sanchez tipped off the National Enquirer to Hughes’s allegations against Payne, which the Daily Beast previously reported. Sanchez maintained that it was Fox News that had leaked news of Hughes’s allegations to the Enquirer.
In June of that year, Sanchez wrote an email to Fox executives accusing one of being the leaker in a previously undisclosed email reviewed by The Post. “By the way,” he added, according to the email, “I’ve been informed, at the highest level, that the Enquirer did NOT have either name before your release.”
Sanchez then said he had proof that identified the real culprit, Hughes said. He told Hughes that he had an audio recording that Fox News was the source of the leak to the Enquirer. But when he provided Hughes and her attorney with the recording, it threw Sanchez’s story about who was at fault into question. The recording was a conversation between Sanchez and a National Enquirer editor discussing the story — but was not undeniable proof, Hughes said.
“I became very emotional when I heard Michael’s evidence for the first time, because it was clearly not 100 percent undeniable as Michael had promised,” Hughes said. When told of The Post’s reporting that Sanchez was an Enquirer source regarding Bezos’s extramarital affair, she added: “I am heartbroken as I trusted Michael from the beginning to have my family’s and my best interest. Sadly, I am not completely surprised.”
Hughes’s case against Payne and Fox News settled with no admission of guilt, but the allegations against Fox News executives were dismissed.
Sanchez denied being the source for the Enquirer’s story on Hughes and said her “heartbreak is misguided.”
“I’m proud of everything I did to protect, defend and represent Scottie, to secure for her a huge settlement, and relaunch her career when everyone in the media world said that was impossible,” Sanchez said.
Michael Sanchez defends his work with and for his sister. He said in an interview that he first dealt with the Enquirer's owner years ago, before Lauren landed a job in 2005 as the first host of "So You Think You Can Dance." She was his first official client.
He said he and his sister, who could not be reached for an interview, have fought and reconciled over the years.
The latest episode has strained their relationship. According to a contract dated Jan. 1, Lauren Sanchez retained her brother as a “communications consultant.”
In response to a question about their business relationship, Michael Sanchez, 52, said: “I have been managing my sister since the day she came home from the hospital, for 49 years. That’s a message I want to be out there. Even when she and I have had fights when we were kids, in college, or whenever, if anyone says a word against her, I defend her and protect her to the end. That’s the essence of my relationship with my sister.”
He said he attended the University of New Mexico and transferred to New Mexico State, and studied architecture and business.
Growing up in Albuquerque, the two were so close they were “like borderline twins,” he said. When Michael Sanchez was 11 years old and his sister was 8, their parents went through a difficult divorce and the siblings relied on one another, Sanchez said.
Their older brother was already a teenager, and Sanchez said that he and Lauren were inseparable. (They also have a half sister and two stepsisters on their father’s side.)
Their father had been the proprietor of a flight school, Golden Airways, which their mother managed. Both were pilots. Their late grandmother owned a local restaurant called the Turquoise Dining Room and worked as a bookie on the side to make extra money, Michael Sanchez said.
“I learned how to read a racing form before I learned how to read a book. That’s who my grandmother was and she was the most interesting person in my family,” Sanchez said, “until Lauren.”
He said he has helped manage Lauren: first, in beauty pageants and later, when she worked as a local news anchor in Phoenix. When she was hired for “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2005, he claimed he was ever-present.
“I was with her literally every single day through wardrobe, hair, makeup, script rehearsals and helping to write scripts,” Sanchez said. “It was a 24/7 job because she struggles with dyslexia and I was always the stealth support system.”
Michael and Lauren’s financial lives also seem to have been intertwined. He has worked for her at various points, and she has loaned him money. In 2010, Michael Sanchez declared bankruptcy, which he described as a “procedural maneuver” to kill a lawsuit from an investor in a movie he helped produce. The plaintiff sued him for failing to return a promised investment on a film project. The filings show he owed his sister $165,000 on an unpaid loan. He said he has partially repaid his sister.
Lauren Sanchez has not worked as a television personality in years. Like her parents, she became a pilot and works primarily at Black Ops Aviation, an aerial film production company she founded in 2016. Bezos hired her to work on a film about his Blue Origin venture, but the two had met previously socially, according to people close to them.
Michael Sanchez approached The Post, he said, “to tell the whole truth about my sister’s love affair with Jeffrey P. Bezos.”
In periodic phone calls and emails, and one face-to-face meeting over the course of several weeks, he had a lot to say. But the whole truth is still elusive.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.CORRECTION: Michael and Lauren Sanchez have a half sister and two stepsisters on their father’s side. This article incorrectly identified their relationship to those siblings. The article has been updated.