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The Irony of Pierre Omidyar

Pierre Omidyar in 2010
Photo by Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty Images
Theodore Schleifer
July 22, 2021

In a tech culture generally teeming with boisterous and astronomical billionaires, it’s been rather easy to forget about Pierre Omidyar, the reclusive eBay founder, worth $25 billion, who helped jumpstart the careers of loudmouths like Elon Musk and Peter Thiel when he bought PayPal nearly twenty years ago. Omdiyar has largely fallen off the map since his $250 million adventure into media, which included memorable dust-ups with Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi. He hasn’t tweeted since 2019, when he locked his account after years of quotidien anti-Trump messages. Instead, he and his wife, Pam, have busied themselves overseeing a multi-billion dollar philanthropic empire from a remote estate outside Honolulu, where Omidyar keeps his Gulfstream G650 and a small security force. “I do like to fly under the radar,” he said in a rare 2009 interview.

But Omidyar is quietly on the cusp of an ironic reemergence. Despite making extraordinary wealth from the internet, he has recently become a leading funder of the “hipster antitrust” movement currently sweeping K Street and Pennsylvania Avenue that seeks to break up companies like Facebook and Google. It’s a peculiar position for someone of Omidyar’s bearing. One of the iconic business leaders of the first tech boom is now spending his money to defang the winners of the second.