Trials & Litigation

Lawyer-turned-entrepreneur admits he financed Hulk Hogan's Gawker suit

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Hulk Hogan

Image of Hulk Hogan by s_bukley /

A former lawyer who became a Silicon Valley entrepreneur acknowledges he paid roughly $10 million to finance Hulk Hogan’s winning lawsuit against Gawker and says it’s not the only case he has financed.

Peter Thiel tells the New York Times DealBook blog that he paid lawyers to find people who had been harmed by Gawker news stories and financed at least two current cases against the gossip website. The financial backing, Thiel says, is “one of my greater philanthropic things that I’ve done.”

Thiel said he also sought other cases that he could fund.

A Florida judge on Wednesday refused to disturb a $140 million verdict against Gawker for publishing a sex tape of Hogan, report the Hollywood Reporter and a separate New York Times article.

According to the Recorder (sub. req.), Thiel’s involvement in financing the case provides “a window into the largely self-regulated and growing world of litigation funding. While the personalities and motives at play in the Gawker case are unique, the lack of transparency isn’t.”

Speculation arose that the case had been financed after lawyers for Hulk Hogan—whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea—excluded a claim that would have allowed Gawker’s insurance company to help defend the case and pay damages, according to the DealBook story. Observers thought it unusual that Bollea wasn’t trying to collect from a deep-pocketed insurer.

Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, had been the subject of a 2007 article by a Gawker blog titled, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” He said he was not the only person who had been bullied by Gawker articles. He saw no contradiction between his litigation funding and his donations to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.”

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