A Facebook Billionaire's Big Dumb Failure
Peter Thiel is finally admitting there's a big blotch on his resumé that needs to be cleaned up. Becoming Facebook's first institutional investor was brilliant; thinking he was smart enough to predict big economic swings was incredibly dumb. Six billion dollars dumb. So Thiel will retreat into tech investing.
Thiel's hedge fund Clarium Capital announced it will put a "significantly higher percentage" of assets into tech companies that have not yet gone public. The move comes after Clarium lost more than 90 percent of $7 billion in assets on macro economic bets including the stock market, currencies and oil prices. Those bets were guided by Thiel, but he wasn't always so contrite about them; in 2009 Clarium managing partner Jack Selby had a screaming fight with Thiel over Clarium's weak performance, with Thiel reportedly insisting he would be vindicated over the long term. (Since then, Selby has busied himself with movie production and a different hedge fund.)
Clarium's new retreat brings it back to an area in which Thiel has already proven himself. In addition to the Facebook investment, he put early money into PayPal (where he eventually became CEO) and hit the jackpot when the company went public. Of course, Thiel already has an investment company to make those sorts of investment, called Founders Fund and started with former Facebook playboy Sean Parker. But with Clarium assets decimated to $462 million as of June, he's got to offer its aggrieved investors something.