Saturday, 1 April 2023

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Peter Thiel says he had $50 million in SVB

Peter Thiel says he had $50 million in SVB

Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund was one of the first venture capital firms to take action and urge clients to quickly withdraw funds from Silicon Valley Bank last week. The firm had reportedly removed all of its own holdings in SVB by Thursday morning, just as panic over the bank’s solvency began to set in on social media, from which it devolved into a historic $42 billion bank run on Friday that collapsed SVB. Thiel and his firm have come under fire online for the role they played in the bank run that followed, but the billionaire investor and PayPal cofounder himself is denying he wanted it to fail. After all, Thiel says, he kept his own money invested there.

“I had $50 [million] of my own money stuck in SVB,” Thiel told Financial Times columnist Gillian Tett in an article published Thursday. As he held his own money at the bank, Thiel was a bit of an outlier as SVB mainly catered to startups and venture capital firms. The bank held $175.4 billion in total deposits when it was seized Friday, according to federal regulators. Surely Thiel would also have pulled his own $50 million if he thought SVB was going to fail?

That Thiel was one of many clients who were left disoriented and scrambling last week when SVB publicly disclosed some of its financial troubles may help explain the mentality of last week’s bank run. Founders Fund withdrew all its deposits with SVB by Thursday morning, according to Axios, with the intention of returning it once the panic subsided. Thiel was reportedly not a part of that conversation. 

As Thursday wore on, the firm began getting more nervous, eventually starting to advise its portfolio companies, which last year collectively accounted for around $11 billion of investment, to withdraw their own funds, saying that there were few risks and downsides to doing so.

Founders Fund was far from the only VC firm to amplify the panic around SVB, causing its shares to plummet 60% last Thursday, before dropping another 20% after-market and then a further plummet in Friday pre-market trading. SVB’s failure has been designated the first major social-media-fueled bank run, as investors and venture capitalists took to platforms like Twitter and instant messaging apps last week to spread news and panic over the bank’s financial status. SVB CEO Greg Becker warned against exactly this phenomenon during an investor call Thursday, saying the bank would only be in crisis if “everyone is telling each other SVB is in…

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