Thiel, an early Facebook investor, will not stand for re-election to the board at the company’s 2022 annual stockholders’ meeting. He will continue to serve on the board until the annual meeting, the company said.
Thiel has been on the Facebook board since 2005. The company has since touched $1 trillion in market cap and generated more than $117 billion in revenue in 2021.
Thiel invested $500,000 in thefacebook.com in 2004, becoming the first significant outside investor in the fast-growing social networking site that was spreading around college campuses. A year later Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg renamed the company Facebook.
Prior to the Facebook investment, Thiel made his initial fortune as co-founder of PayPal. He then moved into investing, first through a hedge fund and then as a venture capitalist.
Since joining the board, Thiel has served as a mentor and close confidante of Zuckerberg. More recently, Thiel has also caused controversies for the company due to his political ties to the Trump administration, donating to his 2016 campaign and serving as an advisor.
Thiel has been a controversial figure since his early days on the Facebook board. Venture capitalists who sit on tech company boards typically hold onto most of their shares for at least a few quarters after the IPO to signal their continued confidence in the business, and then sell slowly after that. But Thiel began dumping immediately, selling over one-third of his shares in the IPO and another big chunk a few years later. He’s been substantially out of stock since 2017.
He’s also made troubling investments in other companies as a board member. For example, in 2019 he backed a start-up called Clearview AI, which scrapes internet profiles to create a facial recognition tool that can be used by law enforcement. Facebook told the company to stop using its data.
Thiel was catapulted to prominence when he co-founded PayPal in 1998. Thiel served as the company’s CEO through its 2002 initial public offering and its sale to eBay for $1.5 billion later that year. He made headlines in 2016 when it was revealed he had funded the high-profile legal case by wrestler Hulk Hogan against Gawker Media.
Thiel is also co-founder and chairman of Palantir Technologies, and he is a co-founder of Founders Fund, Thiel Capital and Mithril Capital investment firms.
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-CNBC’s Ari Levy and former CNBC reporter Salvador Rodriguez contributed to this report.