February 9, 2019

Expensive Problem: Jeff Bezos edition

Let’s start with some context:

Recently, NSFW selfies and racy text messages were published in the National Enquirer. They were sent by Jeff Bezos to a person who was not Mrs. Bezos (i.e., Los Angeles news anchor Lauren Sanchez).

After the scandal broke, Bezos launched an investigation to find out how the data leaked. A few days later, Bezos dropped a bombshell article on Medium stating that his team had reason to believe that Sanchez’s phone was hacked, that it might have been politically motivated in relation to his ownership of The Washington Post, and that lawyers for the National Enquirer had threatened him in writing with what amounts to blackmail.

Pass the popcorn!

The entire story is fascinating for several reasons and it’s almost certainly worth your time to read the entire Medium post, but the following paragraph exploded off the page at me:

To lead my investigation, I retained Gavin de Becker. I’ve known Mr. de Becker for twenty years, his expertise in this arena is excellent, and he’s one of the smartest and most capable leaders I know. I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter.

That sound you just heard was a dump truck dropping a mountain of gold bars in Gavin de Becker’s driveway.

(Key concepts: expertise, trust, retainer, unlimited budget, total latitude.)

My immediate reaction was to Google:

“Who is Gavin de Becker?”

The first hit was an article published the day before in Slate entitled:

“Who is Gavin de Becker?”

(ASIDE: Well done, Slate editorial/SEO teams!)

The Slate article included a bunch data points that I fully expected to encounter. Here are some unsurprising (to me) facts about Gavin de Becker:

Over the years, Gavin has clearly and relentlessly defined himself as THE go-to person when it comes to personal security for public figures. He’s the obvious choice for a public figure worried about their personal security.

Here’s the thing...

Most people I talk to are highly resistant to crafting a positioning statement as specific as Mr. de Becker’s. When I suggest drafting this sort of thing, they tend to react with The Fear. I hear things like:

Do you think Gavin has a hard time finding clients? Do you think he’s bored? Do you think he feels like he chose the wrong speciality? I’d have to answer “No” to all of those questions.

Did GdB build his reputation in a week? A month? A year? I doubt it. I don’t know the guy’s back story, but my guess is that at some point he took a leap of faith and just decided, “I’m going to help public figures maintain their personal security.” Or maybe he feel into it, but regardless - at some point he recognized what his core XY Positioning Statement was and he ran with it.

Seems to be working out just fine.