PayPal co-founder reportedly funding Hulk Hogan's legal battles against Gawker

The gossip site says it has "often written critically" about billionaire Peter Thiel

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Image: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File

A billionaire co-founder of PayPal is reported to be financially backing Hulk Hogan in his legal battles against Gawker Media.

Both Forbes and The New York Times have published stories claiming that Peter Thiel - who was also an early outside investor in Facebook - is bankrolling the former wrestler during the expensive lawsuits.

There is said to have been a troubled history between Mr Thiel and Gawker, with the gossip site having outed the billionaire as gay in 2007.

Forbes explains that "it is not illegal for an outside entity to help fund another party’s lawsuit, and the practice, known as “third-party litigation funding” has become increasingly common in the US".

In a 2009 interview, Mr Thiel described the now-defunct Gawker site Valleywag as the "Silicon Valley equivalent of Al Qaeda".

In a post on the latest reports, Gawker says that they "have often written critically of Thiel and his investments, covering the failure of his hedge fund Clarium Capital, his right-wing politics, and his personal life". 

Gawker founder Nick Denton had previously cast doubt over speculation that a third-party was funding Hogan's legal efforts.

However, speaking to The New York Times ahead of the publication of their story on Mr Thiel's reported involvement, Mr Denton said: “My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley, but that’s nothing really more than a hunch.

“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".

Hulk Hogan was awarded $115m in damages in a sex tape lawsuit against Gawker earlier this year.

A Florida jury found that the website had violated his privacy by publishing a video of him having sex with his former best friend's wife in 2012.

The jury handed Hogan $60m for emotional distress and $55m for economic damages.

In a separate lawsuit, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, claims that Gawker leaked sealed court documents containing a transcript that quoted him making racist remarks about his daughter's black ex-boyfriend.