Facebook's Sandberg: Peter Thiel will remain on board

The social network's COO emphasizes that Thiel's decision to back Hulk Hogan in a case against Gawker was done "on his own."

Richard Nieva Former senior reporter
Richard Nieva was a senior reporter for CNET News, focusing on Google and Yahoo. He previously worked for PandoDaily and Fortune Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, on CNNMoney.com and on CJR.org.
Richard Nieva
2 min read

Peter Thiel will remain on Facebook's board.

Bloomberg via Getty Images

Peter Thiel, your job is safe.

The Facebook board member has been under fire since it was revealed last month he was bankrolling former wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media. Through it all, Facebook, with the crucial role it plays for much of the world's publishers, has faced questions about his board seat.

Thiel will remain on the social network's board, COO Sheryl Sandberg said Wednesday at Recode's Code Conference held in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

"Peter did what he did on his own, not as a Facebook board member," she said. When asked specifically about whether he'd keep his board seat, her answer was clear: "Yes."

The controversy began when it came out that Thiel had backed multiple lawsuits against Gawker, including Hogan's. Thiel reportedly paid roughly $10 million to back Hogan, who won more than $115 million in a Florida jury trial in March. Hogan claimed that Gawker violated his privacy in 2012 when it published a sex tape involving him and the now-estranged wife of a friend. Thiel later admitted his involvement.

Thiel, also a founder of PayPal and a prominent Silicon Valley investor, has a history with Gawker. In 2007, the media company's tech gossip site Valleywag published an article saying Thiel was gay.

To muddle things up even more, Facebook has been mired in questions about its objectivity because of accusations the social network has been repressing conservative news in its Trending Stories feature.

Sandberg reiterated that Thiel's actions were separate from the company's. "If he did anything with Facebook resources, that would be a Facebook issue," she said. "This was something done independently with no Facebook resources, so there's no Facebook issue."

She said that many of the company's board members "wear different hats," and their strong views are what make them good board members.

This isn't the first time Facebook has had to speak up after one of the board courted controversy. After Facebook's Free Basics program was rejected in India in February, board member Marc Andreessen touched a nerve with tweets that appeared to reference the country's colonial history. CEO Mark Zuckerberg quickly responded, and said Andreessen's comments "do not represent the way Facebook or I think at all."

Sandberg said the difference there was that it could have been perceived that Andreessen was speaking for Facebook. In this case, there was no implication Thiel was acting on Facebook's behalf, she said.