Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, was forced to announce his divorce ahead of a tell-all story about his eight-month affair with a former TV presenter, it was reported on Thursday.
The National Enquirer revealed on Thursday it had tailed the billionaire for four months across five states as he engaged in secret trysts with Lauren Sanchez, a former Fox presenter.
The magazine claimed to have obtained an embarrassing exchange of texts between Mr Bezos, 54, and Ms Sanchez, 49, who is married to Hollywood talent agent Patrick Whitesell.
It claimed to have contacted Mr Bezos informing him of their investigation 48 hours before he publicly announced he was divorcing wife MacKenzie.
The pair have been married for 25 years and have four children together. Mrs Bezos, who is a novelist and was one of Amazon's first employees, is expected to become the richest woman on the planet after their divorce settlement.
Asked about the divorce on Thursday, the US president Donald Trump, a vocal critic of Mr Bezos, told reporters "it's going to be a beauty".
Mr Bezos has been a regular target for the US president, in part due to his ownership of the Washington Post newspaper, which frequently criticises the current administration.
The National Enquirer's publisher, David Pecker, is a key media ally of the president and the magazine enjoyed cozy relationship with Mr Trump leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
Last year it was revealed that Mr Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc (AMI), had been granted immunity by US prosecutors in exchange for helping during the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Mr Trump's former lawyer, over hush payments to women during the 2016 election.
One of them involved a $150,000 (£130,000) payment from AMI to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model, to suppress her claims of an affair with Mr Trump.
The Trump records were stored alongside similar documents pertaining to other celebrities' catch-and-kill deals, in which exclusive rights to people's stories were bought with no intention of publishing to keep them out of the news.
Given everything we know about how Pecker's National Enquirer has functioned as essentially an arm of Trumpworld, this prompts some questions: https://t.co/aZI52OifyV— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 9, 2019
Mr Pecker, a long-standing friend of the president, reportedly met with prosecutors and gave details about the payments, including details relating to Mr Trump's knowledge of the deals.
Dylan Howard, chief content officer of AMI, was also given immunity by prosecutors, according to The Wall Street Journal. Mr Howard was one of the authors of the magazine's tell-all on Mr Bezos.
According to the National Enquirer, Mr Bezos has been using his private jet for secret meetings with Ms Sanchez, taking her on exotic trips, sending her explicit text messages and even sexual images of himself, including one too explicit to print.
One of the bylines on this National Enquirer story about Jeff Bezos is Dylan Howard, the AMI editor who was involved in AMI & Michael Cohen’s efforts to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump. https://t.co/dAXSPJXFik— erica orden (@eorden) January 10, 2019
The liaisons included one romantic getaway at the very same hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, where the Bezos family stayed when attending a parents' event at their son's university, the magazine claimed.
Mr Bezos is thought to have met Ms Sanchez through her husband, who represents the likes of Matt Damon, Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman and the two couples have reportedly socialised for a few years.
Ms Sanchez and Mr Whitesell are thought to have separated in the autumn but have not formally filed for divorce. According to one source, Ms Sanchez was hired to work on Mr Bezos' space-launch company.
In one message last Spring it was claimed Mr Bezos wrote: “I love you, alive girl. I will show you with my body, and my lips and my eyes, very soon.”
In another, he wrote: “I want to smell you, I want to breathe you in. I want to hold you tight.… I want to kiss your lips…. I love you. I am in love with you.”
A lawyer representing Mr Bezos told The Enquirer that it was “widely known” the businessman and his wife had been “long separated”.
He added that Mr Bezos was at pains to point out that he “supports journalistic efforts and does not intend to discourage reporting about him”.
In a joint statement released on Mr Bezos' twitter account on Wednesday, the pair said: "After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends”.
“We’ve had such a great life together as a married couple, and we also see wonderful futures ahead, as parents, friends, partners in ventures and projects, and as individuals pursuing ventures and adventures.”