Jeff Bezos used to fight the spotlight. Now the world’s wealthiest person is surrendering.
It’s a media pro move, and it’s one that you can only make once you decide you want to be a media pro.
Jeff Bezos, now the world’s wealthiest person, for a long time lived the life of a merely somewhat-wealthy person.
He gave very little money to charity, but no one noticed. He was not the
That’s all over. And Bezos knows it.
With one Medium riposte, Bezos has turned a tawdry tabloid scandal into a gripping, time-stamped drama stretching from scenes in the White House to Saudi Arabia. He has poured gasoline on the fire, sending media, politics, and tech circles ablaze — raising the public profile of himself, his divorce, and his extramarital affair.
Who knows what the world reaction would’ve been to the alleged photographs from the Enquirer, especially given that the salacious texts had already leaked. But Bezos chose to amplify it. By a lot.
And that allowed him to frame it. Suddenly, this was no longer a story about below-the-waist photographs — it was about ham-handed extortion. It’s a media pro move, and it’s one that you can only make once you decide you want to be a media pro rather than a shrinking violet.
Bezos has never before turned the tables. At best, he has nodded to the scrutiny. The Amazon
But take how Bezos publicly handled the first set of stories from the Enquirer: With a pass-the-salt, almost-silly statement that merely said he respected reporting on his life. That’s the billionaire playbook of old: Downplay, downplay, downplay.
But downplaying just doesn’t work once you reach a certain level of wealth. Scrutiny has a way of finding you.
Charles and David Koch used to close the media out of their donor retreats in uber-wealthy conclaves, cementing the perception of them as secretive kingmakers. Things would still leak, and now reporters are routinely invited. They are no longer the bogeymen they once were.
Documents like the Panama Papers and the emails released by WikiLeaks have pulled back the curtain on how the wealthy live their lives and exert influence (while also exposing email addresses and cellphone numbers).
And if you run for president, people have a way of
This is a point that other billionaires have been slow to learn. Bezos just got it.
And not a moment too soon. At a time when critics are asking whether
Bezos, of course, is not an underdog in nearly any other respect. You might forget that there are calls to break up Amazon and concerns about antitrust regulation. But the National Enquirer handed him a fleeting gift, and he should book the win while he can — before more scrupulous critics tear him back down.