Thiel helped build big tech
On a summer morning in 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz was eating breakfast at the Los Angeles mansion of billionaire investor Peter Thiel, who would become one of the GOP’s biggest donors. At the time, Thiel was locked in a to-be-or-not-to-be debate over whether or not to leave the Facebook board. Aware of Thiel’s love of Shakespeare, Gaetz (R-Fla.) jokingly nicknamed him Hamlet.
Like many Republicans, Gaetz viewed social media as increasingly monopolistic and harmful. He and another visitor, businessman and former right-wing provocateur Chuck Johnson, inspired Thiel to leave the company. But Thiel demurred, telling the couple that he hoped to change it from the inside, according to two people familiar with the conversation.
Last month, Thiel finally resigned from the social community, formally dissolving one of the most powerful partnerships in Silicon Valley history. As Facebook’s first open-air investor, longest-serving board member, and a close adviser to CEO Mark Zuckerberg since he launched the company as a Harvard sophomore in 2004, Thiel helped turn the tide of the company whose products serve billions.
Thiel’s ambition to become an architect of American law had become increasingly at odds with his place on the board of one of the movement’s chief enemies, a political shift that dovetailed with his own growing estrangement from Silicon Valley.
Comments at the time indicated that Thiel has left the Facebook board to focus on politics, including a 2022 congressional slate aligned with former President Donald Trump.
But interviews with members of his inner circle indicate his departure was years in the making, fueled by a growing philosophical rift between Thiel and Facebook as conservatives grew uncomfortable with the tech industry’s willingness to police online speech. Thiel, according to those close to him, lost his craving for food to become a Facebook advocate as his political aspirations matured.
This account is based on interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with Thiel’s musings, who spoke on condition of anonymity to explain personal conversations.
Since March 2021, Thiel has pumped more than $20 million into 16 political campaigns, including the Ohio Senate race, where close affiliate J.D. Vance won the Republican nomination last month, in part by attacking Massive Tech and social media censorship. Thiel has also donated at least $13.5 million to acolyte Blake Masters, a Republican Senate candidate in Arizona who serves as chairman of Thiel’s private base and has positioned himself as an adversary of Massive Tech.
New Reporting Shows Thiel has set his sights on reshaping American culture — and funding its traditional wars — through what his partners call “anti-awakening” business ventures, including a right-wing movie contest, a dating app homosexuals for conservatives based on a former Trump administration ally and an agency, Asset Management Attempt, that could “pressure CEOs to stay away from environmental, social and political causes,” said Vivek Ramaswamy , co-founder of agency similar to oil companies “pledging to reduce support for manufacturing to meet environmental goals.”
More such investments are on the way, the people said, though Thiel himself isn’t sure of the endgame.
“Peter deeply believes that there is a great alternative to creating a parallel financial system,” said Ramaswamy, a former biotech CEO and writer for “Woke, Inc.: Inside America’s Social Justice Rip-off.”
“Serving people who are disengaged from enterprise America right now may be the backbone of future technology for major companies, and hardly anyone seizes that opportunity critically,” he said.