- Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times
Rumors had been swirling that a prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalist was funding the high-profile lawsuit by Hulk Hogan against the online news site Gawker.
On Monday, even Gawker’s founder, Nick Denton, in an interview with The New York Times, seemed to buy into what was once considered a far-fetched conspiracy theory.
And on Tuesday, a report from Forbes by Ryan Mac and Matt Drange said venture capitalist Peter Thiel was the behind-the-scenes benefactor helping to finance the case.
The Forbes report cited only anonymous sources “familiar with the situation.” Business Insider could not independently confirm the report. And it said it was unclear whether Thiel was the only person funding Hogan’s case. Request for comment from multiple Thiel-associated entities went unreturned.
Hogan, a professional wrestler whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, sued Gawker for publishing a video clip in 2013 of him having sex. In March, a jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages. Gawker has said it will appeal the verdict.
Denton told The Times he started suspecting something strange about the case after Hogan dropped a claim for “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” That claim would apparently have required Gawker’s insurance to pay for its defense and its potential payouts.
Dropping the claim meant Gawker would have to pay out of its own pocket, but it also would have potentially resulted in a lower payday for Hogan.
- AP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool
A separate report in The Times late Tuesday, citing a “person briefed on the arrangement,” said Thiel helped fund the expenses of Hogan’s legal team.
What links Hogan to Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal, is unknown, beyond a shared hatred toward the gossip-heavy site.
Thiel once compared the site to Al Qaeda. Gawker reportedly outed Peter Thiel as gay in 2007 and continued to publish pieces on the topic. That prompted Thiel, during a 2009 interview, to compare Gawker to a terrorist organization.
“I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters,” Thiel said at the time. “I don’t understand the psychology of people who would kill themselves and blow up buildings, and I don’t understand people who would spend their lives being angry; it just seems unhealthy.”