PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel 'becoming key Donald Trump adviser'

PayPal founder's employees reportedly refer to him as 'the shadow president'

Samuel Osborne
Sunday 26 February 2017 14:47 GMT
Donald Trump shakes hands with Peter Thiel during first major meeting with technology leaders
Donald Trump shakes hands with Peter Thiel during first major meeting with technology leaders (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is reportedly becoming a key adviser to President Donald Trump and is beginning to stock his administration with friends and former associates.

In December, the PayPal founder set up a meeting between Mr Trump and David Gelertner, a Yale University computer scientist and candidate for White House science adviser.

Four days before Mr Trump's inauguration, Mr Gelertner met at Trump Tower with the president-elect, his chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Mr Thiel.

Towards the end of last year, Mr Thiel organised a meeting between Mr Trump and several Silicon Valley tech leaders, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

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The tech leader also had a near-constant presence throughout the transition period, Politico reports, working with four to six aides from an office in Trump Tower.

From there, he dispatched associates from investment firms to help fill staff positions across the government.

“Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” a senior Trump campaign aide told the paper.

“When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.”

Mr Thiel's employees have allegedly taken to calling him "the shadow president".

Mr Thiel, who believes progress is dependent on a technological revolution that has been slowed by government regulation, has began to suggest his friends and associates for positions where they will have sway over science and technology policy.

Jim O'Neill, managing director at Mr Thiel's venture capital firm Mithril Capital Management, is now being considered to run the Food and Drug Administration.

“The fact that Jim is even in consideration for the position is astonishing,” one associate of Mr Thiel told Politico. “It’s legitimately an outrageous coup for Peter to be able to put somebody at that high a level of government.”

Several of his associates also took on important roles during the Trump transition, with one of his closest aides, Kevin Harrington, being elevated to the National Security Council.

Mr Harrington is now working to fill positions at the Department of Commerce, and Mark Woolway, a colleague of Mr Thiel from his time at PayPal, is doing the same at the Treasury Department.

A senior White House official told the paper: “Peter has been a very prominent supporter of the president’s and we are grateful for his support."

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