In case you haven’t been paying attention to the news recently, billionaire tech entrepreneur and investor Peter Thiel was revealed to be the financier behind at least two high profile lawsuits against gossip site Gawker including one by wrestler Hulk Hogan. On Thursday, Gawker’s founder, Nick Denton, took to his site to write an open letter to Thiel that attacked him for his backing.
The latest face off between the two men started earlier this week when Denton suggested in The New York Times that a wealthy benefactor was helping fund Hogan’s ultimately successful lawsuit against Gawker in which he was awarded $140 million. Then Forbes named Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and sits on Facebook’s board, as the individual who was providing the cash for the suit.
Late Wednesday, Thiel, who was the early backer of Facebook, admitted to The New York Times that he was indeed the financial backer—not just Hogan’s legal case, but also another against Gawker as part of a plan he had been plotting for several years. He even said that the backing of the cases as was one of the “greater philanthropic things that I’ve done. I think of it in those terms.”
Thiel has slo denied that his motive was just revenge for stories that Gawker wrote about him, including one in 2007 that publicly revealed him to be gay. He believed Gawker had pioneered a “unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.” Thiel has also previously compared Gawker to PE Hub as Al Qaeda.
Denton’s response to the Thiel’s role in the lawsuits is definitely worth a read in it’s entirety. Here are a few choice snippets.
Denton on PayPal co-founder Max Levchin warning him in 2007 about Thiel’s planned retribution:
I thought we had all moved on, not realizing that, for someone who aspires to immortality, nine years may not be such a long time as it seems to most of us. Max Levchin, your fellow founder at Paypal, told me back in 2007 you were concerned about the reaction, not in Silicon Valley, but among investors in your hedge fund from less tolerant places such as Saudi Arabia. He also warned of the retribution you would exact if a story was published about your personal life.
On how Silicon Valley executives are thin skinned and used to reporters who avoid critical coverage of the tech industry:
I can see how irritating Gawker would be to you and other figures in the technology industry. For Silicon Valley, the media spotlight is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most executives and venture capitalists are accustomed to dealing with acquiescent trade journalists and a dazzled mainstream media, who will typically play along with embargoes, join in enthusiasm for new products, and hew to the authorized version of a story. They do not have the sophistication, and the thicker skins, of public figures in other older power centers such as New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
On Thiel’s “philanthropic” intentions:
We, and those you have sent into battle against us, have been stripped naked, our texts, online chats and finances revealed through the press and the courts; in the next phase, you too will be subject to a dose of transparency. However philanthropic your intention, and careful the planning, the details of your involvement will be gruesome.
Denton also included a number of questions for Thiel, including whether the billionaire had paid Hogan personally in addition to the wrestler’s legal expenses. Denton also asked for confirmation of what other cases Thiel had funded, and whether his goal was to bankrupt or buy Gawker.