We all now know how it played out. Peter Thiel helped bankroll Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, which ultimately bankrupted the website. But before the billionaire Facebook board member decided on that litigious strategy, even more devious plots were brainstormed.
Thiel went to war with Nick Denton and Gawker over a years-long grudge over an article it published that alluded to his homosexuality. According to the Daily Beast, which quotes Ryan Holiday’s new book, Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, Thiel considered more questionable routes to get back at Denton before opting to bankroll Hogan’s lawsuit.
Here were some of the strategies allegedly proposed by Thiel to acquire harmful intel on the gossip site and its founder:
- Bribery: Holiday writes that an anonymous person, dubbed “Mr. A,” who helped Thiel execute his plan against Gawker, threw around the idea of bribing employees at Gawker to leak information.
- Hacking: Another scheme was even more dubious. “[Thiel and Mr. A] could have directed hackers to break into Gawker’s email servers,” Holiday reports.
- Outright theft: Perhaps most outrageous was another ploy to follow Denton to a fancy meal at a restaurant like Balthazar and then steal his cellphone.
- Illegal spying: Keeping with the whole “illegal” idea thread, Thiel and “Mr. A” reportedly discussed hiring a team to bug Gawker’s offices.
All of these ideas, writes Holiday, were discussed by the two men as possible strategies to gain damning intel about Denton and Gawker as a way to get back at them. Ultimately, they decided on another course: suing the website into oblivion. “We decided very early on we would only do things that are totally legal, which is a big limitation,” Thiel allegedly told Holiday.
Following the early release of this book, BuzzFeed News’ Ryan Mac identified “Mr. A” as a man named Aron D’Souza, an Oxford-educated entrepreneur with few public ties to the billionaire. Holiday–who, like Thiel, has long disliked Gawker–would not confirm to the Daily Beast whether or not D’Souza was in fact “Mr. A.”