As if the lawsuit which centered on a tape of one of the most famous pro wrestlers of all-time having sex with his then-best friend's wife, during which said wrestler used racial slurs which got him fired from the biggest wrestling company in the world, couldn't get any wilder, Forbes is reporting the involvement of a secretive billionaire funding the case.
A "third man", if you will.
According to the article written by Ryan Mac and Matt Drange, Hulk Hogan's legal actions against Gawker have been funded - at least in part - by Silicon Valley businessman Peter Thiel, a cofounder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook.
Thiel, via a spokeperson, declined to comment to Forbes. But the magazine describes him as "an eccentric figure" who has, among other things, advocated for teenagers to skip college. Why would he get involved in Hogan's legal issues with the website who posted the above-described sex tape, for which the WWE Hall of Famer was awarded $140 million in damages (Gawker is currently appealing)?
Like any good pro wrestling story, it looks like it might be personal. Drange & Mac wrote:
Thiel, who is gay, has made no secret of his distaste for Gawker, which attempted to out him in late 2007 before he was open about his sexuality. In 2009, Thiel told PEHub that now-defunct Silicon Valley-focused publication Valleywag, which was owned by Gawker, had the "psychology of a terrorist."
"Valleywag is the Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda," Thiel said at the time.
Though it's not illegal for a third-party to fund lawsuits, it sounds like Gawker may try to introduce this issue as part of their appeal - at least in the court of public opinion. The website's founder, Nick Denton, raised the question of Hogan having financial backing from the tech industry in a conversation with the New York Times:
If you're a billionaire and you don't like the coverage of you, and you don't particularly want to embroil yourself any further in a public scandal, it's a pretty smart, rational thing to fund other legal cases.
Is Hogan the front man for a rich guy trying to scare media into not covering rich guys? The Hulkster likely doesn't care too much one way or the other if he gets to keep a chunk of the award without having to front legal fees.
Whether this will play any role in his return to wrestling or WWE remains to be seen, but a weird story keeps getting weirder.
And life continues to emulate pro wrestling.