Peter Thiel’s Money Talks, in Contentious Ways. But What Does He Say?


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“It’s been a crazier two years than I might have thought,” Mr. Thiel stated in his new Midtown Manhattan house, which is to this point up within the clouds that it actually appears to be like down on Trump Tower.

Regardless of the proximity, the mutual enthusiasm between Mr. Thiel and Mr. Trump appears to have cooled. After Mr. Thiel spoke on the Republican Nationwide Conference in 2016, there have been unsourced media studies that stated Mr. Trump needed to place him on the Supreme Courtroom. However now even photograph ops are uncommon.

The investor stated he had final spoken to the president “a number of months in the past.”

“We don’t speak that always,” he stated, however added, “I can get entry anytime I need.”

The Trump whom Mr. Thiel touted on the Republican conference was a candidate who would “finish the period of silly wars and rebuild our nation,” transfer us previous “pretend tradition wars” and begin tasks the equal of the Apollo area program. That doesn’t appear to be the president he received.

“There are all these ways in which issues have fallen quick,” Mr. Thiel stated. However he stated he had no regrets about his endorsement. “It’s nonetheless higher than Hillary Clinton or the Republican zombies,” he stated, referring to the opposite candidates.


Mr. Thiel, proper, with President-elect Donald J. Trump at a gathering with tech trade leaders in December 2016. The 2 final spoke “a number of months in the past,” Mr. Thiel stated.

Credit score
Kevin Hagen for The New York Occasions

The White Home didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Mr. Thiel is routinely labeled a libertarian. On a bookshelf within the house, as if in affirmation, is a hardback copy of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” the bible of the motion. A present, he stated.

A lesser-known however probably deeper affect was the French thinker René Girard, who taught at Stanford College when Mr. Thiel was an undergraduate there. For 15 years, on and off, Mr. Thiel sat in on a research group about Mr. Girard’s concepts. Mr. Girard believed human beings have been deeply mimetic, which is to say they copy each other.

“It’s very anti-Ayn Rand: There are not any self-contained autonomous figures,” Mr. Thiel stated. “Our wishes aren’t our personal. They get formed powerfully by the society round us.”

It was this illumination that helped him see the potential of Fb — the place folks might discover out in intimate and addictive element what their associates have been as much as — when it was barely a 12 months outdated. He was the primary exterior investor, shopping for 10 % of the corporate for $500,00zero.

He bought most of his holdings in 2012 as Fb went public. Just a few months in the past, with Fb’s market capitalization at about $500 billion, he bought most of what he had left.

Final summer season, there was a flap when a memo by a fellow board member, Reed Hastings, the chief government of Netflix, appeared in The New York Occasions. Within the memo, Mr. Hastings wrote to Mr. Thiel that he displayed “catastrophically unhealthy judgment” in supporting Mr. Trump.

Mark Zuckerberg, Fb’s chief government, didn’t ask him to step down from the board, and studies that he needs to go away the board are incorrect, Mr. Thiel stated, noting that amongst different issues that he brings “ideological variety.” He declined to say precisely how a lot or what sort of recommendation the Fb board was providing Mr. Zuckerberg, however defended the corporate from criticism that it was sluggish to get up to what the Russians did.

“Keep in mind when Trump stated the election was going to be rigged? Folks stated that was loopy — ‘How dare you query the integrity of the electoral course of?’ That was the view of most people working at Fb, too,” he stated. “They didn’t assume issues have been so hackable. It was a mistake, however an comprehensible mistake.” Fb declined to remark.

The anger now being turned on Fb, Mr. Thiel argued, is much less about Russia particularly and extra about tech conceitedness — its failure to take action a lot for thus many. It’s a sentiment that helped put Mr. Trump within the White Home.

“The Trump marketing campaign slogan, ‘Make America Nice Once more,’ was maybe the one most offensive factor you possibly can say to Silicon Valley,” he stated. “Silicon Valley says the longer term goes to be higher than the previous. That’s the propaganda, if you’ll.”

A good friend of his in Silicon Valley had the thought of operating for governor of California this 12 months. Mr. Thiel’s recommendation was that he had higher have a very good reply to this query: Why is tech good for the typical individual in California? The reply, he cautioned, couldn’t be a banality, similar to “it’s making us extra related,” and it couldn’t be utopian, similar to “it’s going to treatment all ailments.”

“He wasn’t capable of provide you with a solution, and I couldn’t provide you with one, both,” Mr. Thiel stated. He declined to determine the good friend, however it’s well-known in tech circles that Sam Altman, the president of Y Combinator, the distinguished start-up accelerator, was fascinated by operating. Mr. Altman confirmed it was him and stated he had determined to not run “for a lot of causes.”

There’s a large portray of a cresting wave in Mr. Thiel’s front room, and it’d as effectively be a visible metaphor for what’s going on in large tech now.

“Having some ambition that transcends simply getting cash is a essential factor for a corporation,” he stated. “However there may be some level the place it will get loopy and self-delusional.” He added that the businesses “are most likely in some hassle — perhaps it’s just a little, perhaps it’s rather a lot.” The prospect of presidency regulation looms.

In 2015 and 2016, Mr. Thiel gave $300,00zero to Josh Hawley, who was campaigning to change into Missouri’s lawyer basic. Mr. Hawley gained, and in November he opened an antitrust investigation of Google. A spokeswoman for Mr. Hawley, a Republican who’s now difficult the state’s Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, stated there was “no connection” between Mr. Thiel’s donation and the investigation. Google declined to remark.

The information final month that Mr. Thiel is transferring from San Francisco to Los Angeles displays a shift that’s as a lot psychological as literal. Getting out of the tech bubble, he figures, will give him extra readability about his investments.

“Community results are very constructive issues, however there’s a tipping level the place they fall over into the insanity of crowds,” he stated.

One other of Mr. Thiel’s contentious concepts was destroying Gawker, the net writer. He secretly financed the privateness lawsuit that Hulk Hogan, the previous professional wrestler, filed in opposition to the media firm, which Mr. Hogan gained. That led to Gawker’s chapter in 2016.

A information operation that specialised in deflating the conceitedness of Silicon Valley ought to have been to Mr. Thiel’s liking. However he argues that his philosophy is constant right here.

“Gawker was making an attempt to chop folks right down to measurement for not conforming,” he stated. “The flexibility to talk and never have each phrase you say get distorted, to have improper concepts after which have the ability to right them — these notions have been powerfully undercut by Gawker.”

Mr. Thiel continues to be pursuing the remnants of Gawker in courtroom, which has prompted accusations that he needs to take away all of its content material from the web as a remaining victory.

He denied this. “Terry Bollea, a.okay.a. Hulk Hogan, continues to be owed some cash from the Gawker sale, and that’s what I’m making an attempt to get,” he stated. “I don’t need the archives. I don’t assume it is sensible to destroy them. Protect them, research them as an alternative.”

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