A few hours after Donald Trump was sentenced to millions in damages for sexual assault and defamation in a court case in New York, Reid Hoffman was asked for his opinion. The guilty verdict does not surprise him, said the investor and co-founder of the career network Linkedin to the "Washington Post". The trial has shown what kind of person the former US president is and how well the American legal system works.

Roland Lindner

Business correspondent in New York.

  • Follow I follow

Hoffman did not say this as an uninvolved observer. As it became known only a few weeks ago, he assisted the plaintiff, the author E. Jean Carroll, in financing the litigation. Once again, he made a name for himself as an adversary of Trump.

Hoffman has been one of its most eloquent critics in the American economy for years. And he is using his billion-dollar fortune to harm the former president and prevent a possible re-election. He thus forms a striking counterpoint to his long-time companion Peter Thiel, the German-born investor who supported and advised Trump.

"I'm going to spend as much money as I can"

Just how serious Hoffman is about his fight against Trump was recently underlined in a podcast with journalist Kara Swisher. Asked if he would be financially involved in the presidential campaign if Trump became the Republican Party candidate, he said, "I will spend as much money as I can and as necessary." Trump would be "destructive to our society and to the world." The riot at the Capitol in Washington in January 2021, which he largely incited, was "just the beginning of how bad it can get."

Hoffman has often co-financed litigation. In the case of Carroll, he said, "My team looked at it and thought their voice should be heard." He is concerned with neutralizing the threat to the American rule of law, which Trump's "legal methods of scorched earth" represented. Hoffman's role as the plaintiff's financier was not made public until two weeks before the trial began. This caused an outcry from Trump's lawyers, who questioned Carroll's credibility and motivation. Carroll's lawyer countered that Hoffman's financial support was "irrelevant" to the facts of the lawsuit.

Hoffman made clear his dislike of Trump even before the 2016 presidential election, and he tried in many ways, albeit unsuccessfully, to support his rival Hillary Clinton. He warned that the consequences of Trump's election would be "between disastrous and terrible." He released a deck of cards that made fun of Trump, and he publicly called on Trump to file his tax returns.

As an entrepreneur and investor, the 55-year-old Hoffman has legendary status in Silicon Valley. He is considered a member of the so-called "PayPal Mafia", which refers to the network of founders and former employees of the payment service, who later also attracted attention with other entrepreneurial activities. Peter Thiel and Tesla CEO Elon Musk belong to this group. In 2003, Hoffman was one of the co-founders of Linkedin, where he was also CEO for several years.

In addition, he began to invest in start-ups, he is still a partner at the venture capital company Greylock. He also has a connection to Open AI, the maker of the ChatGPT language model. He invested in the company in 2015, the year it was founded, and also had a seat on the board of directors, which he gave up a few months ago. Forbes magazine puts Hoffman's fortune at $2 billion.

Hoffman's relationship with Thiel, whom he already knows from his student days at Stanford University, has apparently suffered greatly from the political differences. In the podcast, Hoffman said the two men have much less contact today than they used to. Thiel had suggested not to talk about Trump for the sake of friendship, but he refused. With the financing of the Trump lawsuit, however, he has followed the example of Thiel, who is no stranger to such methods. A few years ago, Thiel financed a legal dispute against an unpopular online gossip portal. As a result, the publication had to file for bankruptcy.