Finally, a Silicon Valley billionaire is standing up to Peter Thiel in the Gawker case

Pierre Omidyar.
REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Silicon Valley billionaire and eBay cofounder Pierre Omidyar is lining up support for Gawker’s appeal to overturn the $140 million judgment in the Hulk Hogan lawsuit, reports the New York Post.

While the report doesn’t say if Omidyar is providing financial support to Gawker, First Look Media is filing a “friend of the court” brief and is trying to rally other media organizations around Gawker’s cause – turning any appeal into a free-speech issue.

This news comes just days after fellow Silicon Valley billionaire and PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel confirmed that he was a financial backer of Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker.

With the $140 million judgment hanging over its head, Gawker founder Nick Denton is said to be exploring a sale of the company.

Omidyar and Thiel have a history. Omidyar was the founder of eBay, and Thiel was a cofounder of PayPal, which first took off as a way for eBay traders to pay for auction items. eBay eventually bought PayPal, and a lot of former PayPal execs – including Thiel – left. Many later criticized eBay for failing to innovate with the payment system, and eBay spun it back out last year.

Omidyar is the creator and chief financier of First Look Media, the company that owns and operates The Intercept, a journalism venture headed by former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, made famous in the wake of the Snowden leaks.

“The First Amendment inspires everything we do,” says First Look’s mission statement.

When news of Thiel’s involvement in the Gawker case came to light, Omidyar criticized Thiel and his support of presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Twitter:

Later on Friday, Omidyar posted another tweet, saying that his differences with Thiel are ideological, not political or personal, and that there’s no “bad blood:”

First Look General Counsel Lynn Oberlander provided the following statement, reprinted here in full:

First Look Media and The Press Litigation Fund has been following the Hulk Hogan v. Gawker case since June of last year, when we intervened with other media companies to seek access to the courtroom and to unseal some of the myriad documents in the case that had been kept from the public.
The possibility that Gawker may have to post a bond for $50 million or more just to be able to pursue its right to appeal the jury’s verdict raises serious concerns about press freedom.
In keeping with our mission to protect the First Amendment, First Look Media is now organizing an amicus effort around these concerns, and we will be paying close attention as this case moves into its appeals phase. To be clear, this is about press freedom principles upon which our company was founded, and about which we care deeply.
First Look Media established a Press Freedom Litigation Fund in July 2014 to strengthen the ability of journalists and others to pursue legal fights where a substantial public interest is at stake.
Grants under the program are used to fund challenges to government policies or action that restrict press freedoms or denials of freedom of information act requests; motions to quash subpoenas seeking source information or journalistic material; defamation cases where the underlying report concerns a matter of public interest; access cases to closed proceedings or sealed documents; and amicus efforts in support of press freedom.
To date, the Press Freedom Litigation Fund has provided grants to support the legal appeals of U.S. Army intelligence analyst turned whistle-blower Chelsea Manning; the appeal of David Miranda in his case challenging his nine-hour detention at Heathrow airport; the defense of a defamation case launched against Sahara Reporters and its editor Patrick Sowore by Nigerian Senator Musiliu Obanikoro; the defense of a defamation case brought by Idaho billionaire Frank VanderSloot against Mother Jones magazine; to support a motion to quash for a subpoena to The Cancer Letter; and to support the Sacramento News & Review in their fight to review emails sent in Mayor Kevin Johnson’s official capacity.