Earlier this year, a jury in Florida found gossip blog Gawker liable for violating the privacy and publicity rights of well-known wrestler Hulk Hogan (whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea) by posting an amateur sex tape involving Bollea and the then-wife of former friend and radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge (real name Todd Alan Clem).
The jury awarded Bollea $115 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
Now, it has come out that Bollea didn’t go into the lawsuit alone.
A recent story in The New York Times notes that Bollea’s lawsuit was partially funded – to the tune of $10 million – by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who also happens to be one of the early (and now, filthy rich) investors in Facebook.
Why would Thiel be willing to put up that much money in a privacy case involving a wrestler and a media publication? One word: revenge.
In 2007, Gawker ran an article titled “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people” which was allegedly followed by a series of other write-ups involving Thiel’s friends and other people. Thiel told the Times that Gawker was out to ruin people’s lives for no reason which is why he funded a team of lawyers to help “victims” of Gawker fight back against the publication.
What better victim to back than a high-profile celebrity?
In an interview with the Times, Thiel said it’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence. He said he 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. Thiel added that most of the people Gawker attacks are not people in his category and that he has the wealth to defend himself.
The publication notes that Thiel’s involvement in backing Bollea’s case has raised new questions regarding big money in the court system and the First Amendment. Nevertheless, Theil said he considers the backing of cases against Gawker as one of the greatest philanthropic things he’s ever done.
Image courtesy Kyle Kirchhoff