Jeff Bezos is used to being in control. The Amazon boss is the world’s richest man and head of what might be the planet’s most powerful company. As well as being an e-commerce giant—delivering everything from books to batteries and makeup to mealworms—Amazon is now a TV and movie producer, an advertising firm, and a fashion empire. It is the world’s largest provider of cloud-computing services and has sold more than 100 million always-listening Alexa smart speakers, which suck up information that can be used to sell us more stuff. Just last year, cities across the U.S. prostrated themselves before Amazon, offering massive tax breaks and other perks in a bid to host its second headquarters. So it must have been quite a shock for Bezos to suddenly find himself being treated like a common celebrity last week, with the National Enquirer publishing allegations that he’d cheated on his soon-to-be ex-wife MacKenzie with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. (See Gossip and Best Columns: Business.)
Despite having never previously contemplated Bezos’ romantic life—I can only picture him in bed with a Kindle—I can’t help but be fascinated by this tawdry tale. First, there’s the tantalizing question of how the family fortune of $137 billion will be split in the divorce. But this alleged affair also reveals a truth about our new Silicon Valley ruling class. Bezos and other tech executives have portrayed themselves as deeply rational beings who make decisions based on hard data rather than gut emotions. As a single 20-something, Bezos even devised an analytical system titled “women flow” to find the perfect mate, who turned out to be MacKenzie. Yet like countless flawed individuals before him, the 55-year-old has now apparently succumbed to that most irrational and human of emotions: lust. As literary critic Mary Colum once told Ernest Hemingway, “The only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.” Now Bezos will have a bit less.