PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel Admits to Bankrolling Hulk Hogan's Gawker Lawsuit

The PayPal co-founder has long seen Gawker as a bully.

ByABC News
May 26, 2016, 9:13 AM

— -- PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel admitted to financially backing Hulk Hogan's invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker.

In a new interview with The New York Times, Thiel explained why he acted as a benefactor to Hogan, who won $140 million in damages after suing the media company for publishing a sex tape that featured him.

Thiel, one of the earliest investors in Facebook, has had problems with Gawker that go back nearly a decade, when Valleywag, a Gawker-owned site that has since been shuttered, published a story entitled, "Peter Thiel Is Totally Gay, People." At that time, Thiel had not publicly spoken about his sexuality.

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he told the newspaper. “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.”

The tech entrepreneur, 48, told the Times that he decided years ago to fund multiple cases in an effort to destroy the media company. He felt the need to protect those who have been affected by Gawker's stories, and who may not have the means to seek justice, he said.

"I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves," he said, according to the Times. "Even someone like Terry Bollea [Hulk Hogan] who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”

"One of my friends convinced me that if I didn’t do something, nobody would," he added.

Thiel, a pledged delegate for Donald Trump in California, also said that it was "safe to say" he funded other lawsuits against Gawker, though he declined to say which ones. And though he said he's spent about $10 million on Hogan's case alone, he said he does not expect to profit financially.

“I would underscore that I don’t expect to make any money from this. This is not a business venture," he said.

Hogan, 62, recently sued Gawker again, this time for intentional infliction of emotional distress. He claims that the company leaked a transcript in which he used a racial slur, which caused him to get fired by his employer, World Wrestling Entertainment. It was not clear if Thiel financed the most recent suit.

Gawker called the suit "ridiculous."

"As we've said before and are happy to say again: Gawker did not leak the information," read a statement from the company at the time. "It's time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan."

In a statement Gawker founder Nick Denton told the Times: "Just because Peter Thiel is a Silicon Valley billionaire, his opinion does not trump our millions of readers who know us for routinely driving big news stories."

The writer of the story with which Thiel took issue denied outing him, according to a statement provided to the Times.