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5 things to know about Peter Thiel

Trump paints dire economic picture, and other MoneyWatch headlines 01:09

Recently in the news as the Silicon Valley bigwig bankrolling numerous lawsuits against Gawker Media, Peter Thiel is a study in contrasts.

With an estimated worth of nearly $3 billion, the 48-year-old co-founder of PayPal and early Facebook (FB) investor is an admired, influential figure in the tech industry. That respect stands in contrast to the bemusement among some of his cohorts for Thiel's support of Donald Trump.

Thiel's endorsement of Trump makes him an outlier in tech, where the real estate mogul's positions on issues including immigration and free trade -- not to mention his boycott of Apple (AAPL) -- have been generally been greeted with surprise, and even hostility.

As Thiel prepares to deliver a prime-time speech on Thursday at the Republican National Convention, the same night as Trump is slated to accepts his party's presidential nomination, here are five things to know about the tech entrepreneur.

1. He's openly gay. Thiel had come out to friends, but not publicly, when Gawker-owned site Valleywag outed Thiel as gay in 2007. Thiel, who in May disclosed he'd spent millions financing lawsuits against Gawker, now reportedly plans to be the first speaker at a Republican convention to say he's proud to be gay. Still, Thiel, whose support of gay marriage puts him at odds with the GOP platform, won't be the first openly gay speaker at a GOP convention -- just the first to talk about it. At the gathering held in Philadelphia in 2000, then-Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona bypassed any talk of his sexuality, but some Texas delegates still stood up and bowed their heads in prayer while Kolbe delivered brief remarks about trade.

2. He's a libertarian. Writing in a 2009 piece for the Cato Institute, Thiel described capitalism and democracy as no longer compatible, asserting that inherent tensions have been weakening the system since 1920. Capitalism is not a crowd pleaser, he said, arguing that the spread of democracy spurs Americans to demand larger and larger givebacks, such as redistributions of wealth, and more government regulation.

3. He's an immigrant. The German-born Thiel moved to the U.S. when he was 1-years-old. Trump's "Build a Wall" philosophy might seen at odds with Thiel's libertarianism and where he makes his money, given Silicon Valley's reliance on immigration for many of the computer engineers, programmers and other workers who populate the region's burgeoning tech sector. But perhaps not, as according to Gawker Thiel in 2008 donated $1 million to the anti-immigration lobbying group Numbers USA.

4. He's for legalizing marijuana. Thiel not only supports decriminalizing pot, he also invests in it. The venture capital firm Thiel helps run backs Privateer Holdings, a company that operates marijuana-related brands, including the Canadian medical pot producer Tilray.

5. He's anti-college. After getting an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University, Thiel stayed on for another three years to obtain a law degree. Yet his academic achievement seems to have sourced his view of higher education. Thiel has said that America's youth would be better served taking a different route, and he previously offered $100,000 to up-and-coming students to drop out of school. As Thiel told 60 Minutes' Morley Safer in 2000, "We have a bubble in education, like we had a bubble in housing."

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