So PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is supporting Meg Whitman, the eBay CEO who bought PayPal for $1.5 billion in 2002, in her race as the Republican nominee for governor of California (as I reported Friday). But Thiel’s co-founder and investing partner Max Levchin is not so enthusiastic.
Thiel never worked for Whitman – he was PayPal CEO, and didn’t think he was necessary for the transition. Levchin, who masterminded the site’s security, stayed on – but his employment history with Whitman, while mixed, is not the reason for his ambivalence. Instead, it’s the issues.
Levchin, who this summer sold his latest startup Slide to Google, told me, “I’m pretty torn. I think she is fundamentally the most pro-business candidate, so as a result, I agree with her on those issues. I disagree with her on some social issues. My political views are those of a San Francisco libertarian – fiscally conservative, socially progressive… I wouldn’t vote for the opposition (former Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic nominee) – I might abstain. I haven’t made up my mind.”
On his experience working for Whitman, Levchin said they had the “occasional complexity.”
“We had our differences and agreements in the past. It’s not like I loved every moment or hated every moment. It was basically fine. She’s very capable,” he said. “She can be between strong minded and strong armed. That’s fine. It’s a good thing in a politician or a manager. If you report to that person, you find yourself resenting the situation (at the time). On balance, I’m slightly more pro (Whitman) than against. Some of the social stuff really bothers me. If she could just be pro-gay marriage and a couple of other things, I’d be more attracted.”
Levchin is not on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest, but his various bosses are: Whitman ranks number 773, Thiel ranks 828, and now he’s working for Google — where co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are tied for 24th, and CEO Eric Schmidt comes in at 117.
Good thing, too, for Whitman: As of August, her campaign had spent a record $99.7 million — and she had ponied up $91.1 million of it herself.