The billionaire investor, who has a difficult history with the sites tech branch, is paying the legal bills for the ex-wrestler in his sex-tape lawsuit, Forbes reports

Billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel is secretly funding lawsuits to financially ruin journalist Nick Denton and his media empire Gawker, according to a new report from Forbes.

Thiel who co-founded PayPal, was an early investor in Facebook and has an estimated wealth of $2.7bn is allegedly paying the legal bills for former wrestler Hulk Hogans fight against Gawker. Hogan, who sued Gawker for posting a clip from a sex tape, was recently awarded $115m, a decision Denton is appealing.

Thiel, a Trump delegate for California, has a long and difficult history with Gawker and its tech branch Valleywag, whose writers have posted critical pieces about him and worked to publicly out him with a 2007 piece: Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.

The Guardian has not been able to independently verify the Forbes report. However, Thiels dislike of Gawker is well known. He said in 2009: Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaida.

Denton had told the New York Times on Tuesday that he had a personal hunch someone in Silicon Valley was backing the lawsuit, which has been carefully orchestrated to avoid allowing Gawkers insurance to pay for damages.

If youre a billionaire and you dont like the coverage of you, and you dont particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, its a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases, he told the New York Times on Tuesday.

Denton suspects power in Silicon Valley is more sensitive than in New York or Los Angeles, where those in control are more accustomed to an adversarial press.

We write stories about powerful people in New York, but there are plenty of outlets writing stories about powerful people in New York, Denton told Forbes. We write stories about powerful people in LA, but there are plenty of outlets writing stories about powerful people in LA. Whats unique about Gawker is that were an internet publication and the tech industry is of particular interest to us. There are powerful people in Silicon Valley and the power of Silicon Valley is a relatively new phenomenon.

Denton in 2007 presaged this in a comment on the article outing Thiel.

He was so paranoid that, when I was looking into the story, a year ago, I got a series of messages relaying the destruction that would rain down on me, and various innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, if a story ever ran.

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