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On his fifth day at Oxford University, Australian law student Aron D’Souza attended a talk by Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal. Afterwards, Dr D’Souza showed him around campus. As they chatted about Thiel’s business, D’Souza asked him a question: what is the biggest problem you face?

Thiel replied with a litany of problems, but the top of the pile was the unwanted press he was getting from a media outlet called Gawker, which had outed him as gay. Thiel didn’t want the attention of taking Gawker to court, but D’Souza had another, more cost-effective idea: what if Thiel bankrolled someone else’s lawsuit?

They met for dinner in Paris a few months later, where D’Souza presented his plan of attack. The 24-year-old student had never had a serious job but he made a compelling pitch, and he was hired. Thiel went on to wage a proxy war with Gawker, secretly funding the wrestler Hulk Hogan, who had his own score to settle over a sex tape made public. Five years later, Hogan won $140m in damages and Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy.


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