Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker

Meet the billionaire donor behind Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker
© Getty Images
Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley investor revealed this week to be funding Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, has a long history in conservative politics.
Thiel is set to serve as a pledged delegate for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE, financially supported both Mitt Romney’s and Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaigns, and funded conservative sting-artist James O’Keefe.
Tuesday brought the revelation that Thiel was the moneyman behind the lawsuit filed by Terry Bollea — best known as pro wrestling legend Hulk Hogan — against Gawker Media for publishing of part of a sex tape featuring the wrestler in 2012.
A jury ruled earlier this year that Gawker must pay Hogan more than $100 million dollars. The company is said to be exploring a sale even as it appeals the decision.
Thiel says he is motivated by anger over Gawker’s combative coverage of Silicon Valley. Valleywag, a now-defunct blog in the Gawker network, was the first outlet to publicly discuss Thiel’s sexuality in a 2007 post entitled “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel told the New York Times this week. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”
This week’s revelations put a new spotlight on Thiel, but he has long been involved publicly with conservative causes and candidates.
While in college at Stanford, Thiel was a founder of the Stanford Review, a student-run conservative student news outlet.
He went on to co-found PayPal and take home $55 million when the company was sold to eBay in 2002.
His wealth has only grown since then. A half-million dollar investment in Facebook — the company’s first by an outside investor — brought returns of more than a billion dollars when the social media giant went public. He also founded a venture capital firm, a hedge fund and the data company Palantir.
And Thiel is one of the only Silicon Valley figures on record supporting Trump as a pledged delegate for the businessman in California. It’s a position that has drawn scorn from many in the tech world.
“Unfortunately, there is literally no way for Thiel to intellectualize his way out of this one,” Paul Carr wrote for tech site Pando, saying that he was “utterly ashamed that we have him as an investor.”
The venture capitalist has been a consistent donor to Republican candidates over the years. He gave $2.6 million to a super-PAC supporting Ron Paul’s 2012 run for the White House, according to Federal Election Commission records, and later contributed to Mitt Romney’s general election campaign.
This election cycle, he has given to Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSupreme Court takes on same-sex wedding cake case House approves motion to go to tax conference — with drama Trump really will shrink government, starting with national monuments MORE (R-Utah) and to a super-PAC supporting former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina’s presidential campaign. He’s also donated in past cycles to Republicans like Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees House Republican: 'I worry about both sides' of the aisle on DACA Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids MORE (R-Wis.) and Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDebbie Wasserman Schultz marks 10 years as breast cancer survivor Foreign agent registration is no magical shield against Russian propaganda Let Trump be Trump and he'll sail through 2020 MORE (R-Texas).
And Thiel’s funding of conservative causes goes beyond elections.
A donation he made — which the Village Voice pegged at $30,000 but his spokesman said it was closer to $10,000 — once funded a video made by James O’Keefe, the conservative activist best known for his sting on liberal group ACORN. In the video Thiel funded, O’Keefe and associates drive around in a van with the name “Taxpayers Clearing House” in an attempt to spoof government bailouts.
Thiel has been a consistent financial backer of one group’s attempt to build a floating, autonomous community where residents could experiment with new legal and political systems. His foundation helped launch the organization in 2008 with a $500,000 donation.
He co-authored a 1995 book, “The Diversity Myth,” that assailed multiculturalism and called his alma mater’s diversity efforts a cautionary tale.
Thiel is not the only conservative in Silicon Valley — many of his friends from Stanford’s conservative circles went on to work for Thiel and become major tech figures in their own right — but he nonetheless stands out in a field of tech executives who are seen as largely liberal.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for one, is a major supporter of immigration reform who has taken aim at Trump’s rhetoric. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg also has connections to Democratic circles. Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, has had ties to recent Democratic presidential campaigns.
“Most of Silicon Valley, most of the executives, tend to be Democrats,” Thiel told The Daily Beast in 2014. “I think a lot of the engineers tend to be more libertarian.”
It remains to be seen whether Thiel’s war on Gawker will effect his standing in the tech world. BuzzFeed noted Thursday that Zuckerberg will have the opportunity to vote Thiel off the company’s board next month. Zuckerberg has not commented so far on the Gawker case.