Tech billionaire Thiel backing wrestler
Hogan's Gawker lawsuit: Forbes
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[May 25, 2016]
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -
Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is helping wrestler Hulk Hogan bankroll
his lawsuit against Gawker Media, according to a report in Forbes.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, in March won a $140 million jury
verdict against Gawker in a privacy lawsuit stemming from a sex tape
Gawker had published.
Gawker, a New York-based website specializing in media and celebrity
news, is appealing the verdict.
Forbes reported late Tuesday that Thiel, an early backer of
Facebook<FB.O> and a co-founder of PayPal<PYPL.O>, had played a lead
role in financing the litigation. A spokesman for Thiel said Wednesday
he would be in touch if Thiel decides to issue a statement on the
matter. Gawker declined to comment.
Thiel, who is also a founder of a hedge fund and a venture capital firm
and has been on outspoken voice on issues including education, is no
stranger to Gawker. In 2007, it published an article entitled “Peter
Thiel is totally gay, people.”
Thiel kept mum publicly about his sexuality at the time, but has since
said he is gay.
A longtime supporter of libertarian causes, Thiel recently said he was
backing real estate financier Donald Trump in his bid for president.
“In my experience the freedom to speak, in the view of most
libertarians, is not unlimited,” said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law
at the University of California at Los Angeles, in an email.
“If Peter Thiel is indeed backing the lawsuit, I assume that he thinks
that disclosing a sex video without the participant’s permission is a
violation of the participant’s rights – here, a right to privacy.“
Gawker is also facing lawsuits from Shiva Ayyadurai, an entrepreneur who
has made the controversial claim that he invented email, and journalist
and writer Ashley Terrill.
[to top of second column]
Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, sits in court during his trial against
Gawker Media, in St Petersburg, Florida March 17, 2016. REUTERS/Dirk
Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/Pool via Reuters
Lawsuits backed by third parties are not unusual. In most cases,
though, they are financial investments in which backers are
motivated by the potential proceeds from a large damage award.
Secretive third-party financings of lawsuits can put media companies
at a disadvantage during litigation, said Peter Scheer, executive
director of the First Amendment Coalition, in an interview Tuesday.
“There might be circumstances in which knowing who your real
adversary is or the real party of interest who is making a suit
against you may alter one’s perception of the case and strategies
for defense,” Scheer said.
(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Heather Somerville Editing by
Jonathan Weber and Michael Perry)
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