Gawker Just Got Its Own Billionaire Backer in Hulk Hogan Trial

Hogan vs. Gawker is essentially now PayPal vs. eBay
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2016 10:03 AM CDT
Gawker Just Got Its Own Billionaire Backer in Hulk Hogan Trial
Hulk Hogan leaves the courtroom during a break in his trial against Gawker Media last March in Florida.   (AP Photo/Steve Nesius, Pool, File)

Hulk Hogan's ongoing lawsuit against Gawker is starting to look a lot like a game of Rock'em Sock'em Robots with two tech billionaires at the controls. On Thursday, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel admitted to secretly funding Hogan's lawsuit to the tune of $10 million. Reuters reports he's cheesed off about a 2007 Gawker article titled “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.” Now comes news that eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar has agreed to back the other side, both financially and legally. Omidyar's First Look Media is encouraging other media companies to file legal briefs in support of Gawker, which, according to the New York Post, would turn an invasion-of-privacy case into a trial about First Amendment rights.

“To be clear, this is about press freedom principles upon which our company was founded, and about which we care deeply,” Forbes quotes a statement from First Look Media as saying. While Omidyar, whose eBay acquired Theil's PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002, denies any "bad blood" between them, the Post notes the two are diametrically opposed, with Omidyar a “crusading liberal and philanthropist" and Thiel a “free-market libertarian who backs Donald Trump.” A jury awarded Hogan $140 million after Gawker published a snippet of a sex tape featuring him. Gawker tried and failed to get that verdict thrown out this week. Gawker CEO Nick Denton says it will bankrupt his company. "The jury’s verdict raises serious concerns about press freedom," Reuters quotes a statement from First Look Media as saying. (Read more Pierre Omidyar stories.)

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