Peter Thiel’s Masterful Luck

Peter Thiel at a 2018 New York Times Dealbook event.
Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for the NYT
Theodore Schleifer
June 10, 2021

Six months after Donald Trump was ousted from office, the venture capitalist who helped put him in the White House is surprisingly poised to be more powerful than ever. Peter Thiel, the seasteading, blood-swilling billionaire who euthanized Gawker, is back. And I think he could end up more of a player in the post-Trump G.O.P. than he ever was in the Trump G.O.P., when his influence was greatly exaggerated. The half-dozen people in Thiel’s political orbit I chatted up this week—yeah, talking their book—agree.

That’s because there’s a chance that two of the Republican Party’s nominees for Senate next year could be dyed-in-the-wool Thiel disciples: Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio. Thiel donated an astounding $20 million to two super P.A.C.s that have been set up to make them credible candidates in next year’s Republican primaries. That’s twenty times the amount he donated to back Trump. It also stands out because Thiel is actually pretty frugal, as billionaires go. “Peter doesn’t like spending money,” as one former aide put it.

Let’s talk about Masters first. I’ve always been struck by the sprawl of Thielworld. Thiel’s fingers are everywhere—he’s got the venture capital firms that he manages, the startups he founded, and the political and philanthropic vehicles that have his imprint. In some regards it mirrors the everyone’s-on-the-payroll world of Eric Schmidt, one of Thiel’s favorite intellectual foils. Lots of these Thiel aides like to knife one another, too, which has complicated things in the Presidio over the years.