The lawsuit that could put an end to Gawker is being secretly funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, Forbes has reported this morning.
Thiel is the somewhat eccentric co-founder of Paypal and Facebook’s first outside investor, now occupied with pouring money into finding a way to make humans immortal and acting as a Republican delegate for Donald Trump. He is also a major sponsor of the Committee to Protect Journalists, an American non-profit that promotes press freedom.
Thiel’s spokesperson declined to comment to Forbes on whether the billionaire was funding wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit. Hogan is suing Gawker after it aired snippets of a sex tape involving Hogan and the wife of a friend. The case is still being appealed, but an early ruling awarded Hogan massive damages (US$140 million) that would bankrupt Gawker if it was forced to pay them.
Forbes speculated on reasons Thiel could have to fund a case against Gawker. He’s gay, and before he was public about his sexuality, Gawker wrote a piece calling him “totally gay”. He’s also been the frequent subject of reporting by Valleywag, Gawker’s intensely gossipy and highly cynical Silicon Valley title.
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In 2009, he said that while he didn’t feel he was especially targeted by Valleywag, he thought it had the “psychology of a terrorist, where it’s purely destructive”:
“It scares everybody. It’s terrible for the Valley, which is supposed to be about people who are willing to think out loud and be different. I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters.”