The angel investor apparently saw the potential in Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker. Forbes is reporting that Peter Thiel, one of the most famous investors in Silicon Valley, “secretly funded” the Hulkster’s mega-lawsuit against the New York City-based gossip news site.
On March 18, 2016, Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, was awarded $115 million by a court in Florida. His lawsuit came after Gawker published a sex tape of Hogan having sex with Heather Clem. She was the wife of Bubba the Love Sponge, one of Hogan’s close friends. A jury found that Gawker had violated Hogan’s privacy and were negligent as well intentionally inflicting emotional distress on the wrestler.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Gawker Founder Nick Denton Said in 2007 That Thiel Told Him He Would One Day Go After the Website
Forbes cites an anonymous source in their story saying that Thiel is the man who bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit. The story was not confirmed by either Thiel, Hogan or Hogan’s lawyer, the Los Angeles-based Charles Harder.
In an interview with the New York Times on May 23, Gawker found Nick Denton said he had a “personal hunch” that Hogan was being financially backed by someone in Silicon Valley.
The Forbes report mentions Thiel’s beef with Denton going back to 2007 when Gawker’s late Silicon Valley offshoot, Valleywag, published an article that outed Thiel as a homosexual. It was something the billionaire didn’t take to kindly to.
He famously referred to Valleywag as the “Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda.”
2. Hogan’s Legal Costs Were Estimated at 40 Percent of What He Was Awarded
Even if Hogan had lost the lawsuit, the legal fees wouldn’t have been too much trouble for Thiel, if the Forbes story is accurate. His net worth is an estimated $2.7 billion, according to the magazine. The total legal costs are estimated at 40 percent of what Hogan won, according to an E! Online report.
Hogan is bringing another lawsuit against Gawker, accusing the website of leaking another video of him, this time referring to his daughter’s black boyfriend as a “ni**a.”
3. It’s Not Against the Law for a Separate Entity to Pay Someone’s Legal Bills
Third-party litigation funding is not illegal or frowned upon in the judicial system and is on the rise in the U.S, according to Law360.
The Forbes report on the Hogan/Thiel connection notes that in regular cases, the person footing the bill will negotiate a payout based on any winnings.
4. Thiel Is a Delegate for Donald Trump; the GOP Nominee Has Said That He Wants to ‘Open’ Up Libel Laws
Thiel is a committed libertarian and Donald Trump voter, so much so that he will be a delegate for the Donald at the GOP convention in Cleveland, reports the Guardian.
In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, Trump said that he would seek to “open up to the libel laws” in America. While the New York Daily News spoke to media attorney Floyd Abrams who said that Trump has little chance at succeeding. Abrams said, “There is no federal libel law for Trump to amend or change, and thus no role for the President at all. Fifty states have their own libel laws; the federal government has none.”
5. Gawker Is Still in the Process of Appealing the Jury’s Decision
Nick Denton had been adamant since the verdict that he would appeal. The Wall Street Journal reports that Gawker’s appeal is based on their contention that “key evidence was wrongly withheld” and that the instructions given to the jury on what constitutes news, was not accurate.
On May 25, a state court judge upheld the initial verdict in St. Petersburg, Florida, reports Capital New York. The website will now take their appeal to Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal.