When most entrepreneurs are anointed as billionaires, a super-car or three is at the top of their shopping list.
Not so for Jeff Bezos. He marked his official billionaire status — attained in 1999 after Amazon went public on the stock market and was valued at $10.1 billion — by upgrading his battered old Chevy to a rather modest Honda Accord.
Famously frugal, Bezos never used to be one for luxury, even when his fortune hit the stratosphere. A Star Trek nerd, his office desk was made out of an old door raised on four pieces of wood, symbolising his forensic dedication to financial efficiency.
But this was all while he was married to his first wife, Princeton English graduate Mackenzie Scott, whom he divorced in 2019 after four children and 25 years of marriage.
Today — set to wed for the second time, to the cartoonishly pneumatic Lauren Sanchez, whom he’s been dating for four years — it’s fair to say Bezos has since leaned into his ‘master of the universe’ status with some aplomb.
Since Joe Bezos started dating Lauren Sanchez four years ago, he has lent into his ‘master of the universe’ status with some aplomb and begun to lead a luxury life
Lauren Sanchez has gone from being rejected as a big-haired 18-year-old for a job as an air hostess to ‘global philanthropist’ and only flying private
On Friday night Lauren joined Prince Harry at the Living Legends of Aviation ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles
The new Jeff — transformed into a buff and muscled hulk — has a life that is platinum-plated luxury from dawn to dusk, which 54-year-old Lauren clearly revels in.
Her life has been transformed by Bezos. She’s gone from the utter humiliation of being rejected as a big-haired 18-year-old for a job as an air hostess — because she was a few pounds too heavy — to ‘global philanthropist’.
With billions to give away at the tip of her artfully manicured fingernails — as well as to spend on herself — there’s no doubt she’s at the top of the Hollywood tree.
Her years on TV as a pretty local newsgirl are long forgotten now friends include other billionaires such as Oprah, Kim Kardashian and media mogul Barry Diller.
On Friday night Lauren, a qualified helicopter pilot, joined Prince Harry at the Living Legends of Aviation ceremony at the Beverly Hilton hotel in Los Angeles, where both received awards.
She later posted a picture of herself with the Prince, and gushed about him on Instagram, calling him part of a group ‘who shaped the history and future of flight’.
On the agenda later this year is an A-list Oscars party, hosted by Lauren. Then there will be her flight into space on Bezos’s very own rocket — plus, of course, their wedding (second time round for both parties), which is set to be a spectacle for the ages.
One can only wonder what her wedding gown will be like. If her current tastes are anything to go by, it could well be sheer or perhaps entirely see-through.
Indeed, earlier this month Lauren was in Paris and Milan squeezing herself into a succession of eye-popping slashed or transparent dresses to celebrate her fiance’s 60th birthday.
One rather risque catsuit exposed her thong-clad bottom, leading some U.S. commentators to say, rather unkindly, that the glowing Lauren looked like ‘a hooker’.
Regardless of the barbs, she and Bezos looked truly content.
‘Look who’s turning 60! Happy birthday, baby!’ Lauren wrote on Instagram.
‘Today is another day where your laughter fills our home, and that smile of yours lights up every room. Wishing you an abundance of simple joys and quiet moments of happiness.’
You could be forgiven for snorting at her choice of the words ‘simple joys’.
Bezos, the world’s third-richest man worth £137 billion, has, alongside a property empire which would make Croesus weep, built Koru, a $500 million (£394 million) yacht, with a busty figurehead on its prow that bears a striking resemblance to Lauren. Along with two commercial aircraft, the Koru — the tallest yacht ever built — costs £39 million a year to run. Its support vessel alone houses 45 staff and has its own submarine.
The mega yacht is possibly the most excessive display of wealth on the planet, but nothing, it seems, is ‘too much’ for Lauren, who delighted in spectacular shows of riches even as Amazon laid off 27,000 workers in 2022-3.
And if Bezos has had ‘quiet moments of happiness’, the sparky Lauren has more than likely snapped a picture of it and shared it on social media.
Lauren Sanchez is a qualified helicopter pilot since 2011, something no doubt inspired by her father Ray, who had been a flight instructor and a mechanic
As she reaches her mid-50s, Lauren Sanchez has never looked hotter — if by ‘hot’, you mean in a plumped-up, Kardashian kind of way
Jeff Bezos has also beefed up since he met Lauren Sanchez, bulking up in the gym and growing out of his previously weedy reputation
For Lauren fizzes with joy at her good fortune, stellar connections and ‘magical’ life — doubters be damned. She told Vogue last year she was so impressed she nearly ‘blacked out’ when Bezos gave her a £1.9 million 20-carat pink diamond engagement ring.
Barry Diller calls her ‘a sparkler in Jeff’s life’, and adds: ‘They’re very in love with each other — they’re demonstrably in love. She’s lit him up in the nicest ways. She’s a great stimulant.’
And just as the formerly weedy Bezos has pumped up — she says he now trains like a ‘monster’ — Lauren, too, appears transformed by her romance.
As she reaches her mid-50s, she’s never looked hotter — if by ‘hot’, you mean in a plumped-up, Kardashian kind of way.
Notably, her morning coffee comes in a mug which reads: ‘Woke up sexy as hell again.’
Some carp that her full-throttle beauty owes more than a little to cosmetic interventions. Observers note her lips are fuller, her complexion smoother, her skin ever-tauter than it was a decade ago.
There has also been unkind speculation about the shape of her earlobes — apparently a giveaway sign of a facelift.
But the fact is Lauren’s beauty and charisma won Bezos over before any cosmetic changes took place, and he remains captivated.
As for her current showgirl look — the very opposite of stealth wealth — Bezos says only: ‘It works for Jeff.’
Lauren told Vogue last year: ‘I really think I am coming into who I am and I know what feels good.’
What’s apparent from her life story is Lauren has always been impressively focused on self-improvement.
Born in 1969 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, she wasn’t much of a student due to undiagnosed dyslexia. Aged 18, she moved to Los Angeles, hoping to become an air hostess at Southwest Airlines but at 8 st 9 lb, was 6lb too heavy.
She enrolled at a Californian college to study journalism. Thanks to a teacher who spotted her neurodiversity, she flourished, eventually winning a scholarship to the University of Southern California.
She left in 1994 before graduating after being offered a job as a host on a TV station in Phoenix, Arizona. A later internship led to a job on Fox Sports in LA and a job as a local news anchor.
Her love life bounced along at pace: she was said to be engaged to sports broadcaster Rory Markas, before relationships with NFL player Anthony Miller and, later, NFL star Tony Gonzalez, by whom she had son Nikko in 2001 before they split.
There was then a liaison with LA Lakers player Derek Fisher, before a minor entrée into showbusiness via actor Henry Simmons, star of Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, to whom she was also reputedly engaged.
All this romantic restlessness finally ended when Lauren met the entertainment and media agent Patrick Whitesell, falling for him like a ton of bricks on first sight in 2004 and apparently rapidly ditching Simmons.
‘I’d always ask my friends: ‘How do you know it’s the right one?’ she sighed. ‘Then when I met Patrick, I told them: ‘I so get it.’
After meeting Whitesell, her own TV career became turbo-driven. In 2005, the year she and Whitesell married, she landed a job as host of So You Think You Can Dance, then in its first year.
Her wedding was on a scale to attract attention, attended by her husband’s clients, including actors Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba and Hugh Jackman, who sang Mack The Knife at the reception.
However, her time with So You Think You Can Dance ended when she was pregnant with son Evan in 2006. A friend recalls bosses were happy to give the role to Cat Deeley. Lauren’s take was that she was ousted unjustly, and even consulted high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred about legal action.
A TV source said: ‘Lauren was very smart, obviously very attractive, not particularly knowledgeable in dance, but she would ask all the right questions.
‘However, Lauren would not always pick up on what the answer was before moving on to the next question, and that gave the impression of not listening, connecting or empathising with the contestants.’
After her daughter, Ella, was born in 2008, Lauren returned to work in television, hosting the entertainment show Extra, and then a local LA morning news show from 2011-2017.
Jeff Bezos formally split from his first wife in January 2019, while Lauren also split from her husband after 14 years. They first met a few years earlier
Sanchez says their lives are ‘pretty normal’, even though it is likely on an order of luxury greater than many can even imagine
Lauren and Bezos also have philanthropic ventures, and present the Bezos Award for Courage and Civility, where a £78 million grant is given to charities
Through those years there was always plenty of energy for her family. Son Nikko remembers his extrovert mum would attend his high school football games in self-made outfits with his number on it, ringing a cowbell and cheering. ‘There was not a single year she wasn’t the ‘team mum’,’ he said.
Her qualification as a helicopter pilot came in 2011, no doubt inspired by her father, Ray, having been a flight instructor and a mechanic.
Ever resourceful, Lauren saw a commercial opportunity in her hobby in 2016 when she formed Black Ops Aviation, specialising in aerial filming.
Through her new gig, and perhaps with connections she made via her agent husband, Lauren consulted on Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk.
By this time, she had met Bezos. Her husband represented the actress Michelle Williams — star of the 2016 Amazon-distributed film Manchester By The Sea — and he and Bezos apparently worked closely together.
At some point, a plan took shape for her and Bezos to work together on a documentary about his space project, Blue Origin.
Described in the tabloids as ‘the $50 million alibi’, it was during its filming that the two enjoyed an eight-month affair.
The National Enquirer magazine trailed the lovers across five states and 40,000 miles as they enjoyed private jets, helicopter rides, romantic hikes and five-star hotel hideaways.
There were reports of red-hot texts and pictures shared between them. After such revelations, in January 2019 Bezos announced the end of his marriage to Mackenzie. Lauren also formally split from Whitesell after 14 years.
Home for Lauren today is a Beverly Hills mansion, bought by Bezos for $165 million (£130 milion) in 2020. There are also properties in Washington — where Bezos owns the Washington Post — Miami, and a huge ranch in Texas.
Sanchez says their lives are ‘pretty normal’ and ‘mostly revolve around the kids’. The couple share a personal trainer and enjoy working out together.
Inevitably, considering her newly acquired wealth, work has become focused on passion projects. Her production company, Adventure & Fellowship, is hoping to develop documentaries and features.
Last summer, there was a strife-filled 20-day shoot on a micro-budget film, The Golden Door, which included a cameo role for Bezos’s daughter.
It’s unclear if the film will be released: director Kellie Madison left the project, and there were reports Sanchez, a producer, was grand on set, riling her peers.
Her people offered the priceless response to criticism: ‘She was involved — she even brought her own jewellery for the actors to wear on film.’
Lauren is also writing a children’s book, The Fly That Flew, which was promised last year but never materialised. There are already several books which share either its title or its concept — a fly going into space — which may account for the delay.
Still, nothing deters Sanchez — who is either a ‘striver’ who can be a pain, or a positive ‘force’, depending who you speak to.
Philanthropy is a regular diversion: she and Bezos present the Bezos Award for Courage and Civility, where a £78 million grant is given to charities. Sanchez is also vice chair of the Bezos Earth Fund, which intends to spend £7.8 billion to try to solve the climate crisis, as well as being involved in the Day 1 Families Fund, for homeless families, and the Bezos Academy, which provides free pre-school education.
She said last year: ‘Right now, I’m immersing myself in philanthropy and strategic giving. I’ve always had a career very separate from my partner. I think now that I can work with my partner and be with him all the time . . .
‘We love to be together and we love to work together. He’s helping me with the book. He’s getting his pilot’s licence. We fly together. We work out together. We’re together all the time. Living with Jeff is like having a master class every day.’
And so, one might also conclude, is living with Lauren.