It was remarkably civil, as conscious uncouplings go: Peter Thiel, in announcing his departure from the board of the company formerly known as Facebook, praised his longtime friend and mentee Mark Zuckerberg as “one of the great entrepreneurs of our time.” Zuckerberg in turn called Thiel, the first outside investor in Meta Platforms Inc. and a board member since 2005, “truly an original thinker.”
That last bit is indisputable. Although Thiel and Zuckerberg are close, Thiel had hardly made a secret of his disdain for Zuckerberg’s social network. The company’s first outside investor sold the majority of his holdings almost as soon as he was able to. As I reported in my book, The Contrarian, Thiel also amplified some of the company’s loudest critics. “My generation was promised colonies on the moon,” Thiel told a gathering of Facebook employees shortly after the company went public. “Instead we got Facebook.” He funded political candidates who attacked Zuckerberg, and he invested in Clearview AI Inc., which scraped Facebook data to create its facial recognition database, in violation of its terms of service. Only days before his departure from the board, the New York Times reported that a Thiel-backed cybersecurity company, Boldend, had claimed in a client presentation that, for a time, it had possessed the ability to hack WhatsApp, the Meta-owned secure messaging platform.