Hulk Hogan vs Gawker Media: Celebrity wrestler awarded £79m in damages over sex tape scandalIBTimes UK

It's going to be billionaire v billionaire in the continuing court action involving Hulk Hogan and Gawker. In the wake of startling news that Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel, bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan's punishing libel suit against Gawker, the news site now has a billionaire in its camp: eBay co-founder, Pierre Omidyar.

Thiel confessed to the New York Times that he was the money-man behind Hogan's crushingly successful libel suit against Gawker he filed for for leaking a sex tape.

Thiel footed the bills, behind the scene, for the court action to exact his own retaliation. He was furious over a 2007 Gawker headline reading: "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people," he explained. He called his behind-the-scenes string-pulling "special deterrence" to stop the media outlet from attacking others.

But now Thiel's Silicon Valley rival, Omidyar, is leading the charge to support Gawker as it appeals the $140 million (£98.5m) judgment awarded to Hogan.

Omidyar's First Look Media - an online news venture that includes The Intercept - is reaching out to other media organisations to file friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Gawker, which could be bankrupted by the Hogan judegment.

"First Look Media is looking into organising amicus support for Gawker in its legal fight and appeal against Hulk Hogan," First Look's general counsel Lynn Oberlander told the New York Post.

Omidyar had already attacked Thiel in an earlier tweet after the Paypal founder's confession. "So Thiel agrees with Trump's plan to muzzle press that criticizes government, obviously. That's why he supports him?" Omidyar tweeted.

Omidyar, a liberal worth some $7.7 billion (£5.3bn) , is building a reputation as a free speech advocate with his Intercept news site. He committed $250 million (£171m) to First Look Media in 2013 in partnership with Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who first published information from leaked documents from US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Thiel - himself worth an estimated $2.7 billion (£1.9bn) - has a far different attitude about the media. He provided about $10 million (£6.8m)to fund the invasion-of-privacy suit filed by Hogan, real name Terry Bollea. A Florida jury sided with the wrestling legend in March 2015.

The initial clash between the billionaires began in the unfolding competition between their enterprises. Omidyar's eBay eventually purchased PayPal, which Thiel co-founded with Tesla Motors entrepreneur, Elon Musk

Gawker owner, Nick Denton, lashed out at Thiel after the attack, calling him in an open letter, which was published on his news site, as a "a thin-skinned billionaire who, despite all the success ... seethes over criticism, and plots behind the scenes."

He added: "We, and those you have sent into battle against us, have been stripped naked, our texts, online chats and finances revealed through the press and the courts; in the next phase, you too will be subject to a dose of transparency."