Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced this Monday that Peter Thiel will leave the board of the council. The controversial businessman from Silicon Valley thus ends 17 years of relationship with the social network created by Mark Zuckerberg. “He believed in us when few others did and he taught me several lessons about business, the economy and the world,” said the company’s president in a farewell, who has not reported the reasons that lead the 54-year-old investor not to stand for re-election at the next shareholders’ meeting in May. “We always knew that at some point he would devote his time to other interests,” Zuckerberg said. Thiel’s close circle has confirmed to the US press that the tycoon will focus on the legislative elections in November, in which he will promote candidates sympathetic to Donald Trump and his agenda.
Thiel, with a wealth of 2.6 billion, is a tycoon unique among the vast catalog of great fortunes in the United States: Republican and gay, provocateur of Catholic beliefs, defender of free speech and architect of the bankruptcy of the Gawker gossip outlet. He detests West Coast progress despite being a product of that culture. With his hyper-libertarian economic activism, he was one of the first tech entrepreneurs to embrace Trump in the 2016 campaign. One of the endless rumors that fueled the chaotic Republican administration claimed that the former president even considered Thiel to fill one of the vacancies in the Supreme.
His sympathy with some radical right-wing groups —which originates from his time as a student at Stanford, where he edited an ultra-conservative magazine— caused friction with Zuckerberg and other executives on the Facebook board of directors, journalist Max Chafkin describes in the book The Contrary, published at the end of last year. Thiel, together with members of the movement called Alt Right (the alternative right) complained that the social network showed an ideological tendency towards the Democrats and to the left. One of his roles as a board member was to raise the voice of conservatism to the top of the tech giant. The news comes days after Meta admitted that he has lost ground to Tik Tok, sending its share price down 26%, wiping out $323 billion of market value.
From Founders Fund, one of the most prolific investment funds in Silicon Valley, Thiel became a Midas king with companies like Spotify, Airbnb, SpaceX, Lyft and Kavak, among others. In August 2004 he invested half a million dollars in an initiative of a 19-year-old who had dropped out of the race, Mark Zuckerberg. His firm belief in a world without central banks led him to launch an online payment platform. That company is Pay Pal, which owes much of its success to his and Elon Musk’s intelligence (they both respect each other, but have a deep hatred for each other, says Chafkin). His data company Palantir has been criticized for selling information to feed surveillance programs used by the Pentagon.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside one of the great entrepreneurs of our times,” Thiel said in a brief statement about Zuckerberg, whom he highlighted for his “intelligence, energy and scruples.” Thiel was on several occasions Zuckerberg’s mentor. He has sympathy for profiles similar to that of the creator of Facebook. In 2011 he launched a $100,000 university scholarship for young students to drop out of school and start entrepreneurship.
Few have been surprised by the announcement of Meta this Monday. For months the political columns have given signs that Thiel is preparing for the battle in which the Republicans intend to wrest control of Congress from the Democrats. Heading to the legislative elections, the financier supports four candidates for the Senate and another 12 candidates for the lower house, the House of Representatives. Three of this dozen are politicians who want to unseat Republicans who voted for impeachment of Trump, an unforgettable sin that is not forgotten in the reckoning among conservatives.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
One of their targets has placed them in Arizona. The narrative of the trumpists believes that in that state, won by Biden in 2020, an electoral fraud was forged. Thiel has contributed more than $10 million to finance the Senate race of Blake Masters, one of his closest associates and chairman of his foundation. Masters will try to take the seat from Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, who won the election in 2020. In Ohio, another vital state for the 2024 presidential elections, the financier has bet on JD Vance, a partner in another investment firm, and author of the best-selling success Hillbilly, a rural elegy, a book that has been used as a way to understand the context that led white America to support Trump. Both candidates, as dictated by Trump’s dogmatism, have campaigned criticizing the influence of technology companies and the power of Mark Zuckerberg. It will be one more among the long list of contradictions that Peter Thiel keeps.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.