From The Washington Post:
Both men have gobs of money.
They didn’t make it the old-fashioned way, with steel and brick, but instead with big, disruptive, life-changing ideas.
After they got rich, after they’d achieved a titan status imaginable only in the digital age, that’s when the tabloids came for them.
And that’s when they went to war.
Theirs is a tale of two billionaires — Jeffrey P. Bezos of Amazon.com fame and Peter Thiel, who birthed PayPal. So different in style and temperament, the two men have each found their sex lives splashed in public against their wills in separate tabloid “gotchas.” But they have tangled with the merchants of salacity in completely opposite ways.
Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, blasted his disdain into the maw of the Internet, essentially delivering the equivalent of a lawyer’s opening statement with the entire planet sitting in the jury box. Thiel operated in sotto voce fashion, secretly maneuvering to exact revenge and not surfacing until he had triumphed.
Bezos is locked in a conflict with the National Enquirer, which last month published intimate text messages he’d sent to Lauren Sanchez, with whom he was having an extramarital affair, and photos of them together. In a Medium post Thursday, Bezos accused the supermarket tabloid, which is owned by American Media Inc., of blackmail and extortion for threatening to publish additional intimate photographs if he and his representatives did not agree to stop their investigation of the how the material was obtained. Bezos suggested that the tabloid, whose parent company is run by a friend of President Trump, had political motives to run stories about his affair. Trump has frequently attacked Bezos over his ownership of The Post.
Thiel’s battle took place against Gawker, the sassy and sometimes raunchy website that earned his eternal enmity by outing him as gay in 2007. He got back at the site in 2016 when he surreptitiously funded a successful lawsuit by Terry Bollea, better known as the wrestler Hulk Hogan, over the site’s 2012 publication of a tape depicting Bollea having sex. Gawker went out of business after a jury awarded $140 million in damages.
“They are two fundamentally different approaches to similar problems,” said Ryan Holiday, author of “Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue.”
When Thiel’s involvement in the Bollea case was revealed, Bezos was less than enthusiastic about his fellow tech titan’s actions. At a conference in June 2016, Bezos was asked about the Thiel-Gawker slugfest. He responded with an old saying: “Seek revenge and you should dig two graves, one for yourself.”
“Is that really how you want to spend your time?” Bezos went on to say. “As a public figure, the best defense to speech that you don’t like is to develop a thick skin.”
Those remarks came to mind for Bezos watchers after his posting on Medium, a self-publishing website.
. . . .
In the first paragraph of Bezos’s post, he frames his decision to publicize letters he had received from the National Enquirer as evidence of wrongdoing — a step beyond berating the tabloid for publishing details of his private life.
“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,” Bezos wrote.
The saga is drenched in a hailstorm of theories and counter-theories. Bezos’s team, headed by famed security consultant Gavin de Becker, has cast a suspicious eye on Michael Sanchez regarding the leak of the texts and photos. Sanchez is the brother of Bezos’s girlfriend, former TV host Lauren Sanchez. Michael Sanchez is a Trump supporter, and his potential involvement is part of a theory that the leak is a political hit.
. . . .
Both Sanchez and de Becker have, at times, explored the possibility that the text messages were obtained by a foreign government or a business competitor, according to interviews and a Post review of emails and text messages. Sanchez has even posited that Israel’s Mossad, British intelligence or the U.S. National Security Agency might be involved. (De Becker ultimately concluded that hacking was not involved.)
Link to the rest at The Washington Post
PG hopes he is wrong, but, more than once, he has had the feeling that, a few years down the road, we may look back on this series of events as a turning point for Amazon.
From the beginnings of Amazon, Bezos has put his distinctive personal stamp on the company in the same way that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates built very large companies which seemed to be reflections of their very different personalities.
Jobs, of course, was forced to give up his management position due to cancer while Gates retired from Microsoft in an orderly fashion, but neither company has been the same since the person with the dominant vision that drove its tremendous growth departed.
For PG, Microsoft has become the most boring large tech company in the world. Windows continues. MS Office continues. Like a power utility company, each relies primarily upon its quasi-monopoly position to keep the dollars rolling in.
New Microsoft products seem to be lame derivatives of products originated elsewhere. Microsoft Surface is an iPad wannabe. Why does Edge even exist? MS is into producing products and services that are derivative of its own ancient good ideas or the ideas of others.
On the other hand, Apple is much less boring because post-Jobs management has made the mistake of believing it can continue to raise prices without doing anything really new. Now it’s in the process of cutting prices on its iPhones and iPads to stem a significant decline in sales and the new ideas in mobile phones are all coming out of China.
So what do we make of Bezos and Amazon?
Has Bezos lost his mind? He’s supposed to be reliably brilliant.
The year is 2019 and intelligent people don’t take nude selfies and text them to other people. That’s a mistake that any intelligent sixteen-year-old who wants to get into a good college will not make.
Additionally, intelligent people haven’t gotten into big fights with The National Enquirer for decades. Bezos already bought The Washington Post. He should have purchased The National Enquirer and fired everybody he didn’t like.
When he spent a lot of his time in court, PG had to talk more than one client out of suing someone because the collateral damage to the client’s reputation would far exceed any monetary benefit the client would derive. On such occasions, he would sometimes quote George Bernard Shaw.
I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.
~ George Bernard Shaw