Almost anyone who is in the tech industry, has heard of the name Peter Thiel. For those who have not, here is a small introduction about Peter. He was one of the founders of PayPal, founder of Palantir & a very early investor into Facebook. He invested 500,000 USD into Facebook, becoming the first big outside investor to do so. It was called Facemash back then. Shortly after, he becomes a Silicon Valley whale. He is also the author of a very famous book called “Zero to One”.
However, the story I want to tell you is not about Peter’s success, rather about Peter’s character. Apparently, he is a very vindictive man, and is a character who does not let things go easily. His commitment for revenge and dedication is epic.
15 years ago, in 2007 Thiel’s personal life attracted attention when Gawker’s tech blog featured an article that claimed he was homosexual. A 2007 article published by Gawker’s Valleywag blog was headlined, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” That and a series of articles about his friends and others that he said “ruined people’s lives for no reason” drove Mr. Thiel to mount a clandestine war against Gawker. His coming out was hijacked by a media outlet ahead of its time. Thiel denounced the online media company, though he subsequently announced that he was gay.
On a parallel universe that same year, in 2006, famous wrestler & actor Hulk Hogan is invited to his friend’s house, Bubba the love sponge (radio DJ) and his wife Heather Clem. At that point Hulk finds out that they are swingers and has sex with Heather, in their bedroom. One thing Hulk did not know that was, the couple videotape their bedroom with a hidden camera. On 3 occasions Hulk Hogan’s sexual act was recorded and stored for future creepy purposes.
The tapes did not come out to light for a long time. Actually, up until 2012. During those 6 years, the swinger couple got divorced & in the settlement the husband was decided to end up with the custody of those sex tapes. Allegedly, when Bubba was moving out of his office a competitor of his stole the tapes, then later on tried extortion & finally leaked it to Gawker.
After which Hulk Hogan files 2 lawsuits. One against Bubba & the other against Gawker. The Bubba lawsuit reaches a settlement & closes. However, the lawsuit against Gawker, this is where shit hits the fan. Hulk Hogan sued Gawker for $100 million for invasion of privacy for publicly releasing a sex tape that involved Hogan and his friend’s wife. Hogan also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order to have the video removed. Gawker’s counsel argued that the footage is newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment, and that Hogan should not have had an expectation of privacy.
During the same period, Thiel was constantly looking for a way to get back at gawker.com. “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he said once in his first interview since his identity was revealed. “I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”
At one point he paid a lawyer a few millions to start digging around on gawker, to find something he would be able to force them out of business and voila – the Hulk Hogan case.
Through shell off-shore companies, Peter started to finance Hogan’s case. At one point they even paid 600,000 USD for a consulting company to determine – what kind of jury selection will be most beneficial to Hogan’s case. They ended up with jury of mostly overweight white women – who they thought would resonate with Hogan’s case the most. After spending almost 10 million on this case. In 2016 a jury awarded a $140 million judgement to Hogan. Gawker initially vowed to appeal the award, but ultimately settled with Hogan for $31 million. However, the settlement was still too costly for the online media company, and Gawker filed for bankruptcy in June 2016. It was sold to Univision two months later for $135 million.
Thiel also garnered attention in 2016 when he became a vocal supporter of Republican presidential nominee—and eventual winner of the election—Donald Trump, donating money and speaking at the party’s convention. He was one the first major backers of Donald’s campaign. Now imagine Peter’s smile after finding out that he won a case with Hulk Hogan, him partnering up with Elon and 10 others to create PayPal, his 500k investment became what is Facebook today & a nominee he backed became a president. Peter seems like a character; he likes to find those outliers & gamechangers. His dedication & shark like scent of blood is exhilarating.