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Republican donor and investor Peter Thiel to leave Facebook board

Thiel has emerged in recent years as one of Silicon Valley's most vocal conservatives, backing former President Donald Trump and other GOP politicians.
Peter Thiel during a news conference in Tokyo on Nov. 18, 2019.
Peter Thiel during a news conference in Tokyo on Nov. 18, 2019.Kiyoshi Ota / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Facebook's parent company, Meta, said Monday that Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who helped supercharge the social network's trajectory and later became a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, will leave the company's board of directors later this year.

Meta said in a statement that Thiel had decided not to be re-elected to the board. The company did not give a reason.

Thiel has been on the board of directors for Facebook since 2005, a year after CEO Mark Zuckerberg co-founded the company, and he was among its earliest investors.

His influence over Facebook has included not only an early jolt of cash, but also serving as an intermediary to prominent Republicans — he attended a dinner meeting between Trump and Zuckerberg in 2019 — as well as his belief in monopolization as a business strategy.

In a statement, Zuckerberg said Thiel had taught him many lessons. 

"Peter has been a valuable member of our board and I'm deeply grateful for everything he has done for our company — from believing in us when few others would, to teaching me so many lessons about business, economics, and the world," Zuckerberg said. 

"Peter is truly an original thinker you can bring your hardest problems and get unique suggestions."

Thiel, in a statement released by Meta, called Zuckerberg "one of the great entrepreneurs of our time" whose "talents will serve Meta well as he leads the company into a new era."

A spokesperson for Thiel did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment Monday.

Thiel addressed the Republican National Convention in 2016, making history by speaking about being gay while also serving as Trump's most prominent backer from Silicon Valley.

But he also sometimes clashed with other Facebook board members, and his numerous other business interests as an investor in tech startups always threatened to create potential conflicts with Facebook's own business.

In 2016, fellow Facebook board member and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings told Thiel that his support for Trump showed "catastrophically bad judgment" as a director, according to The New York Times. (Hastings left the board in 2019.)

In 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that Thiel advised Zuckerberg to continue Facebook's policy of not fact-checking political advertisements from politicians, creating another flashpoint within the company.

More recently, Thiel has backed the Ohio Senate run of J.D. Vance, an author-turned venture capitalist who embraced much of Trump's populism. Both Thiel and Vance invested in the conservative-leaning YouTube competitor Rumble.

And in Arizona, Thiel has committed at least $10 million to another associate, Blake Masters, who's running for the Senate as a Republican. Masters has served as the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital, an investment firm, and the president of the Thiel Foundation. 

But Thiel has also criticized democracy itself, writing in one 2009 essay, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” He even provided funding for seasteading, the nascent idea that people could live on the ocean away from the control of traditional governments. 

Thiel has been a prominent figure in the world of technology and startups for more than two decades, having worked with Elon Musk to build PayPal in the late 1990s before moving on to focus on investing. He has since invested in many successful companies including Palantir and, through Founders Fund, where Thiel is a partner, Airbnb, Spotify and SpaceX.

In the media world, Thiel provided the financing for a lawsuit that brought down the website Gawker after a trial in 2016 for violating the privacy of wrestler Hulk Hogan, avenging what Thiel said was the website’s unfair outing of him as gay years earlier. 

“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” he told The New York Times that year, revealing his role after the trial was over. 

But Thiel has also cozied up to other media organizations, giving regular interviews to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. 

Meta said Thiel would continue to serve as a director until Meta's next annual shareholders meeting. The date of this year's meeting hasn't been announced but the event typically happens in May.