Peter Thiel is leaving the board of Meta, more than 16 years after becoming one of Facebook’s earliest investors. In a statement, Mark Zuckerberg said that “we’ve always known that at some point he would devote his time to other interests.” The New York Timesreported that those interests include “influencing” the upcoming November midterm elections and “backing candidates who support the agenda of former president Donald J. Trump.”
“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 in a statement. “Peter is truly an original thinker who you can bring your hardest problems and get unique suggestions.”
Thiel has advised Zuckerberg from the earliest days of Facebook. He joined the board of the social media company in 2005 after investing $500,000 in the fledgling social network. In a statement, he called Zuckerberg “one of the great entrepreneurs of our time.”
The billionaire is also one of the more controversial members of Meta’s board. After cofounding PayPal, he started Palantir Technologies, a secretive data mining and analytics company that contracts with numerous government agencies. Thiel’s venture capital firm, Founders Fund, was also an investor in Oculus founder Palmer Luckey’s virtual border wall startup. He also funded the multimillion-dollar lawsuit that resulted in the 2016 bankruptcy of Gawker Media.
Most controversially for Facebook and Zuckerberg, Thiel was an early supporter of Trump, and was at a White House dinner in 2019 when Zuckerberg reportedly “came to an understanding” with the president’s team that Facebook would not fact check the president. Critics have long questioned Thiel’s position on Meta’s board of directors given his close ties to Trump, but Zuckerberg has always defended him. In 2016, Zuckerberg told employees it was an issue of “diversity” and “standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints.” (Notably, not every company insider agreed with Zuckerberg. Netflix CEO and one-time Facebook board member Reed Hastings reportedly told Thiel his support of Trump showed “catastrophically bad judgment.”)