Jeff Bezos has been in the headlines in recent years not only for his business success, but for his record-breaking 2019 divorce and a blackmail attempt that he decided to make public.
Mr Bezos announced on Tuesday (local time) he would be giving up his chief executive role as of online powerhouse Amazon to focus his energy on other business and philanthropic ventures.
It comes after a tumultuous few years during which he found embarrassing details of his personal life revealed.
The 57-year-old went through a very public split from his wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Scott, in 2019 after the National Enquirer published “sleazy text messages and gushing love notes” between Mr Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, 51, with whom he was having an affair.
The intrigue deepened after the Amazon founder and the world’s richest man, accused the tabloid of threatening to release private photos because he was investigating how the tabloid obtained the text messages.
In emails published on a Medium post, Mr Bezos revealed he was warned the newspaper had taken photos during their investigations that showed “a below the belt selfie” and a shot of Ms Sanchez “smoking a cigar in what appears to be a simulated oral sex scene”.
In return for keeping these and other photos under wraps, the Enquirer wanted Mr Bezos to publicly acknowledge that he and his representatives didn’t have any basis for their suggestion that the original story about him was politically motivated.
The National Enquirer was controlled by David Pecker, an ally of then-president Donald Trump, and reports suggested Mr Bezos suspected Mr Trump had a hand in leaking the salacious private text messages.
However, Mr Bezos decided not to give in to the paper’s demands.
“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,” Mr Bezos wrote on Medium on January 8.
“If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”
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Perhaps unsurprisingly Mr Bezos and his wife announced their intention to divorce just a few days later.
“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,” a joint statement released on Mr Bezos’ Twitter account said.
The post suggested the split was on good terms.
“We feel incredibly lucky to have found each other and deeply grateful for every one of the years we have been married to each other.”
The couple, who have three sons, as well as a daughter who they adopted from China, later agreed to a record-breaking divorce settlement.
Mr Bezos gave his wife a quarter of their joint Amazon stocks, representing a four per cent stake in the internet giant, or around $US32 billion ($A45 billion) in value at the time.
But he held on to his shares worth around $US100 billion ($A140 billion), enabling him to retain the title of the richest man in the world, beating out Microsoft mogul Bill Gates by $US4 billion ($A6 billion).
Mr Bezos also took control of Ms Scott’s remaining stock in his other companies, The Washington Post and Blue Origin, the space exploration company he founded.
Ms Scott released a statement on Twitter in April 2019 that she was grateful to have finished the process of dissolving her marriage.
“Happy to be giving him all my interests in the Washington Post and Blue Origin, and 75 per cent of our Amazon stock plus voting control of my shares to support his continued contributions with the teams of these incredible companies,” she wrote.
“Excited about my own plans. Grateful for the past as I look forward to what comes next.”
The settlement also made Ms Scott one of the richest women in the world but she quickly made headlines when she pledged to give the majority of her wealth to social causes, giving away $5.6 billion in four months.
Mr Bezos met his ex-wife while he was vice president of an investment management firm in New York.
He was the first person to interview Ms Scott, a fellow Princeton graduate, and she later got the job as a research associate, making them office neighbours and friends.
“All day long I listened to that fabulous laugh,” she told Vogue in 2013. “How could you not fall in love with that laugh?”
Ms Scott eventually made a move, according to a Business Insider profile of their marriage. They married in 1993, just six months later.
Mr Bezos then surprised peers by leaving his high-paid position, backed by money borrowed from his parents, to open an online bookseller called Amazon.com in 1994.
Originally run out of his garage, it went on to grow into a colossus that dominates online retail, with operations in streaming music and television, groceries, cloud computing, robotics, artificial intelligence and more.
However, Mr Bezos’ marriage was tested after he met Ms Sanchez through her husband Patrick Whitesell, who is an agent to stars including Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Kevin Costner, Hugh Jackman and a host of other A-listers.
The trio were even pictured together at a 2016 event for the movie Manchester By The Sea, which starred another of Patrick’s clients, Michelle Williams.
According to the New York Post, Mr Bezos became closer to Ms Sanchez, who also works as a helicopter pilot, after she separated from Mr Whitesell. Meanwhile Mr Bezos said he and his wife had been going through a “trial separation”.
An exclusive source told the Post: “Patrick and Lauren have socialised with Jeff Bezos and his wife for a few years, because both (now former) couples have houses in Seattle.
“Then Lauren was hired to work on one of Bezos’ projects, ‘Blue Origin’, a space launch company, as a helicopter pilot. She has been shooting aerial shots for Bezos.
“Patrick and Lauren Sanchez have been separated for a while. Their marriage has been off and on for a while, and they tried hard to fix things, but in the fall [autumn] they officially separated. She had told Patrick that she has been recently seeing Jeff Bezos.”