Peter Thiel famously helped bring down Gawker in 2016 by funding a lawsuit, but now a new book says the Silicon valley billionaire was prepared to go much further to destroy his great media nemesis.
In his forthcoming work, “Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue,” New York Observer columnist Ryan Holiday said that Thiel — with the help of a mysterious high-priced Australian operative known only as “Mr A.” — plotted a range of nefarious schemes to bring down the company.
“‘It’s almost limitless what one could do,’ Mr. A says, musing on all the theoretical angles of attack they brainstormed in meetings at Thiel’s house and in late-night phone calls. Given the resources he had to draw on, the limitlessness of the options is nearly true: They could have bribed employees at Gawker to leak information, or hired operatives to ruin the company from the inside. They could have directed hackers to break into Gawker’s email servers. Someone could have followed Nick Denton and, while he dined at Balthazar one morning, stolen his cellphone. A team could have attempted to bug the Gawker offices.”
But Holliday reported that Thiel ultimately ruled out any illegal activity — which he lamented was a big limitation.
“There were all these things that you could be tempted to do and it’s not clear they would work any better. So we decided very early on we would only do things that are totally legal, which is a big limitation,” Thiel is quoted as saying in the book.
Thiel’s near-Shakespearean hatred of the company dates from this 2007 article which outed him as gay.
For Gawker’s bankruptcy lawyers, that all adds up to the possibility of launching a “tortious interference” lawsuit against Thiel on the grounds that he intentionally and improperly tried to harm Gawker’s economic interests. Even if unsuccessful the move could potentially thwart Thiel’s plan to buy Gawker.com — something he has suggested he is seriously interested in doing.
It remains unclear how the final sale will ultimately shake out, or whether the new revelation in the Holiday book will have any effect. William Holden, the interim Gawker estate administrator, declined to answer any questions about the Thiel comments. Thiel, through his foundation, did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.
An account of the book’s claims was first published by Lloyd Grove in the Daily Beast.