Peter Thiel confirmed last night that he did indeed fund Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, as rumored earlier this week, saying that the move was one of the "greater philanthropic things" he had done in his life. The billionaire Silicon Valley investor told The New York Times that he secretly bankrolled the wrestler's sex tape case as a way of "fighting back" against Gawker Media, who he said published articles that were "very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted," and who "ruined people's lives for no reason."
Thiel, whose sexuality was outed in a 2007 Valleywag article, argued that he third-party funding was "less about revenge and more about specific deterrence." The venture capitalist, worth an estimated $2.7 billion, said he decided several years ago to covertly provide money to "victims" of stories posted on Gawker Media's properties. "I didn't really want to do anything," he told The New York Times, saying that he thought providing so-called third-party litigation funding "would do more harm to me than good." Thiel said he changed his mind when one of his friends convinced him that if he didn't step in to stop Gawker, nobody would.
Thiel said if he didn't stop Gawker then "nobody would."
"I can defend myself," he said. "Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can't defend themselves." Thiel put together a legal team to search for such individuals — people who "would have accepted a pittance for a settlement" — before making them an offer of financial backing. The investor didn't provide details on other cases he had become involved in, but the NYT says at least two Thiel-funded cases against Gawker Media are currently running.
While third-party litigation funding is a fully legal practice, Thiel's deployment of his vast cash reserves in this manner have raised ethical questions. But Thiel, who has donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists, says he's only targeting Gawker — a company he calls a "singularly terrible bully" — and hasn't provided financial support to lawsuits against any other media companies. "In a way," he said, "if I didn't think Gawker was unique, I wouldn't have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean."