Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel: Ganging up to fight Gawker, a common enemy

What does money buy?

Apparently a campaign to destroy your enemies.

That appears to be the story in the case of who has been backing the legal fights against Gawker Media.

One name has emerged: Peter Thiel, the former co-founder of PayPal, prominent Silicon Valley investor and most recently, California delegate for Donald Trump.

Perhaps motivated by his antipathy for Gawker, Thiel has been backing legal fights against the media firm, says Forbes. The New York Times followed with its own story saying the same thing.

Thiel’s office has not replied to an email asking for comment.

Estimated to be worth more than $2 billion, Thiel’s pockets are deep. As Marc Andreessen, another prominent tech investor, pointed out, wryly:

In 2007, Gawker outed Thiel as gay in a piece titled, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”

The tech investor and libertarian has called Valleywag, the now-shuttered Gawker publication that covered the tech industry, “the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”

Chief among the cases against Gawker has been the high-profile defamation battle brought by wrestler Hulk Hogan (a.k.a. Terry Bollea) over a sex tape Gawker published in 2012. A Florida jury awarded Hogan $140 million, but Gawker and its founder Nick Denton are appealing.

On Wednesday, a Florida judge denied Gawker’s motion for a new trial and wouldn’t reduce the $140 million verdict, the Associated Press reported. Could this be Gawker’s end, with Thiel twisting the knife?

There has been speculation that Hogan was not funding his own legal case. That theory was fueled by several moves by Hogan’s legal team, including the decision not to take a $10 million settlement offer.

The team made another peculiar move – it dropped claims for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” That claim would have required Gawker’s insurance company to help pay for the defense and help toward settlement payouts.

Adding to the mystery have been subsequent lawsuits against the company brought by the Hogan’s lawyer, Charles Harder. One was brought by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claimed to have invented email.

Denton told the Times:

In L.A. and New York power centers, people are pretty used to an independent and critical press…Silicon Valley coverage with coverage on Valleywag, and the coverage on Gawker and Gizmodo — I think that has been a change for them.

The reaction from some notables in the tech industry, which likes to align itself with free speech rights, has been outrage that Thiel is trying to take down a media outlet:

Above: Peter Thiel. (John Green/ Bay Area News Group)

 

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  • Bopper

    Is it something in the Bay area drinking water or simply too much money that drives some local VCs to become Libertarian Trump delegates or to propose dividing California into six states? The “land of fruits and nuts” never stops producing abundant quantities of both.

    • Vigilabo_Vigilum

      Many VC’s really come to believe that they are rich because they are smarter than everyone else. They really don’t get that for every one of them, there are hundreds of smarter entrepreneurs who did everything right, but that didn’t become billionaires because the key opportunity to take advantage of didn’t happen, or the economy tanked at just the wrong time, or any of the other elements beyond an entrepreneurs control, yet need to happen, but didn’t. If I had a nickel for every VC I know who surrounds themselves with sycophants who constantly tell them how brilliant they are no matter how banal their ideas, I’d be richer than I already am.

      And talk about easily bruised egos…

      • Reed More

        You are spot on. “Mature” VCs and former founders have said to me, “It was as much about timing and luck as it was about skill.”

    • EllaFino

      The majority of tech people lean left. There are of course the few that either are anti-government or feel their purse strings threatened.

  • JIM PARSONS

    And a big – SO WHAT!?

    Oh, deary. Someone’s flittin’ the cash at Hogan’s lawyers to fight Gawker. And this is evil, why?

    Forgot we are living in a post Constitutional socialist paradise where rubbish like gawker should be allowed to spew their stink without repercussion.

  • This is simply a case of someone having so much money that they’re looking for things to do with it. For example, let’s buy a public beach and shut it down.

    But, as it stands, this is in line with Citizens United, as it allows those with the most money to speak, er, yell the loudest.

  • Vienners

    Peter Thiel may a big scum but Gawker is the bigger scum. So I guess we will have to support Thiel.

    • Julien Pierre

      There is still a first amendment right in this country. So no, we don’t have to support Thiel. And certainly not Trump, implicitly.

      • Vienners

        Sir, trust me. I hate that xenophobic, racist, sexist, fascist and narcissistic scum more than you will ever hate. But people who Gawker and TMZ are lowest of lowest scums.

 
 
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