Rumours had been swirling that a prominent Silicon Valley VC is funding a 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 new report from Forbes by Ryan Mac and Matt Drange said that venture capitalist Peter Thiel was the behind-the-scenes benefactor helping to finance the case.
The Forbes report only cited anonymous sources “familiar with the situation.” Business Insider could not independently confirm the report. And it noted that it was unclear if 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 a total of $140 million in damages. Gawker has since said it would appeal the verdict.
Gawker’s Denton told The Times that 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 defence 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.
A separate report in The New York Times late Tuesday, citing a “person briefed on the arrangement,” said that 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 first outed Peter Thiel as gay in 2007 and continued to publish pieces on it. That prompted Thiel to compare Gawker to a terrorist organisation during a 2009 interview.
“I think they should be described as terrorists, not as writers or reporters. 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,” Thiel said at the time.