Tech Industry

Peter Thiel reportedly considered leaving Facebook's board

The investor who made a massive bet on Facebook thought about exiting over national politics, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has been a Silicon Valley loner for his conservative views and support of President Donald Trump.
Stephen Shankland/CNET

Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist renowned for his early investments and his conservative views, considered resigning from Facebook's board of directors because of political tensions between him and another Facebook director, according to a Wall Street Journal report Thursday. 

He has served on Facebook's board since 2005, the year after the company was founded. 

Thiel is also reducing his involvement in the tech industry and will move to Los Angeles from Silicon Valley because of what he sees as the industry's "intolerant, left-leaning politics" the Journal reported, citing people familiar with Thiel's thinking. The billionaire investor's Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation will move into new LA headquarters this year, the paper said.

Thiel has had a strained relationship with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who also serves with him on the social network's board, over Thiel's support for President Donald Trump, according to the article. Thiel donated $1.5 million to Trump's presidential campaign. 

"Silicon Valley is a one-party state," he said last month in a debate with Hastings at Stanford University. "That's when you get in trouble politically in our society, when you're all in one side."

In a leaked email obtained by The New York Times, Hastings wrote to Thiel in August 2016, "I'm so mystified by your endorsement of Trump for our President, that for me it moves from 'different judgment' to 'bad judgment.'" In the email, Hastings called Thiel's support "catastrophically bad judgment" and "not what anyone wants in a fellow board member."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confronted both Hastings and Thiel, concerned that one of them had leaked the email, the Journal reported. In a phone call, Zuckerberg and Thiel discussed whether the investor should remain on the board. Facebook's CEO didn't ask for Thiel to quit and Thiel said he wouldn't leave voluntarily, the WSJ reported, citing a person familiar with the discussion.  

Thiel has decided to stay with the board, at least for now, because he feels he can still help the company, the paper reported. 

Facebook declined CNET's request for comment. 

Thiel's name entered broader public consciousness two years ago when news broke that he had financially backed wrestler Hulk Hogan's successful lawsuit against Gawker Media, which eventually forced the online publisher out of business. 

Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook in 2004 as it was starting. In November, he sold 73 percent, or almost $30 million, of his remaining shares, according to securities filings. 

He started PayPal in 1998, launched data analysis company Palantir Technologies, and is a partner at Founders Fund, which invested in SpaceX and Airbnb. He also started the Thiel Fellowship, which encourages young people to start companies instead of attending college. 

Over the past two years, he's resigned from the boards of HR software company Zenefits and Asana, which helps work teams collaborate. He's also cut ties with startup incubator Y Combinator and sold most of his shares in Twilio.

First published, Feb. 15, 6:36 a.m. PT.
Update, 7:52 a.m.: Facebook declined to comment; 11:20 a.m.: Adds information on Thiel's investments and his intended move to Los Angeles.