Peter Thiel, the conservative Silicon Valley billionaire, has been secretly funding the defamation lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media, Forbes reported on Tuesday.
Citing “people familiar with the situation,” Forbes wrote:
“Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan‘s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los Angeles-based lawyer.”
Hogan won a stunning $140 million verdict against Nick Denton’s Gawker Media in a defamation lawsuit earlier this year over the publication of segments of a sex tape featuring Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife.
The former wrestler stubbornly declined to settle the case despite multiple attempts to do so by Denton.
Thiel declined to comment to Forbes on the report.
Thiel is known as an Ayn Rand-style libertarian who funds young people to skip college and embrace entrepreneurship.
He has expressed venom toward Denton properties before. Gawker attempted to out Thiel, who is gay, in 2007 before he came out. In 2009, Thiel was quoted as saying, “Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”
Denton hinted at the involvement of a billionaire earlier on Tuesday in an interview with The New York Times.
“My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley, but that’s nothing really more than a hunch,” he said. “If you’re a billionaire and you don’t like the coverage of you, and you don’t particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it’s a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases.”
Gawker Media has issued the following statement: “According to these reports, a board member of Facebook and a major funder of The Committee to Protect Journalists has been secretly funding a legal campaign against our journalists. We trust the appeals court will correct the outsized Florida jury verdict and reaffirm the law that protects a free and critical press, which is more embattled and important than ever.”