Palantir's latest controversy is on its board: a Wall Street Journal reporter who is friends with Peter Thiel and whose father is the novelist Tom Wolfe

Alexandra Wolfe, Palantir director

  • Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Wolfe quit the newspaper
    on Tuesday following
    a Bloomberg report
    that she would join the board of directors
    at Palantir, a controversial data analytics startup founded by
    Peter Thiel.
  • Wolfe is one of three new board members, and the first-ever
    female director at the 17-year-old company, which has its eyes on a
    potential fall IPO.
  • California, where Palantir is headquartered, requires public
    companies to have at least one female director.
  • Wolfe is friends with Thiel, and wrote a book about his famous
    fellowship program, which pays students to drop out of
    college.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

Palantir, the secretive data-analytics company founded by tech
billionaire and outspoken Trump-supporter Peter Thiel, is used to
courting controversy on hot-button topics like surveillance and
politics. 

But the tech company’s newest addition to its board of directors
has caused a stir in an unexpected realm: the media.

On Tuesday, Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Wolfe
announced that she was joining Palantir’s board of directors,
becoming the first woman to join the company’s board. 

The news,
which was first reported in a Bloomberg scoop
, quickly spread
across media circles and confounded observers, not least because
journalists are typically not allowed to join corporate
boards. 

And tech companies — particularly those preparing for a
multi-billion dollar IPO — typically want a level of operational
experience and expertise not possessed by the average news
scribe. 

Wolfe, who was based in the Wall Street Journal’s New York
bureau, is the daughter of famous journalist and author Tom Wolfe,
whose novels include the 1987 bestseller “Bonfire of the Vanities.”
She is friends with Thiel, the cofounder of Palantir, which was
valued at $20 billion in its last public funding round five years
ago.

The Wall Street Journal did not make any internal, newsroom-wide
announcement about Wolfe’s unusual departure, but word quickly
spread across the newsroom. The code of conduct for Dow
Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, explicitly bars
employees from serving as directors of for-profit institutions,
except under specific circumstances.

It’s unclear how much WSJ management knew about Wolfe’s move to
Palantir leading up to the announcement, or whether Wolfe was
allowed to stay at the newspaper while her Palantir role was still
private, one source told Business Insider.  

Wolfe joined Palantir as one of three new independent directors
brought on as the company looks forward to a
possible fall IPO

Wolfe declined to comment. Colleen Schwartz, a spokesperson for
Dow Jones, confirmed that Wolfe resigned to accept the job at
Palantir. Lisa Gordon, a spokesperson for Palantir, declined to
comment. 

Wolfe has deleted her Twitter account

Soon after her board seat was made public, Wolfe announced on
Twitter that she was leaving the Journal. Joe Lonsdale, an 8VC
partner and Palantir cofounder, responded with his
congratulations.

Congrats, Alexandra. Very
happy to see this.

Wish there was a way to debate a more reputable person in public
about the important work Palantir does here and all over the world,
not least running the pandemic response for 35 countries, vs this
noise. Ignore the confused bots.

— Joe Lonsdale (@JTLonsdale)
June 24, 2020

Her Tweet quickly generated backlash from people critical of
Palantir’s record of contracting with government agencies such as
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And journalists piled on,
decrying the conflict of interest in the situation.

Wolfe has since deleted her Twitter account. 

It’s unclear why Wolfe got involved with Palantir, but she has

publicly acknowledged
that she is friends with Thiel. Her 2017
book “Valley
of the Gods”
follows recipients of Thiel’s fellowship, which
pays students to drop out of college.

Wolfe’s long reporting career has spanned business publications
including BusinessWeek and Portfolio, though her most recent
bylines are for the weekly column Weekend Confidential, which is
mostly light profiles and interviews with people like the
professional home organizer
Marie Kondo
and poet
Maggie Smith

Palantir was also under pressure to diversify its board.
California, where the company is headquartered, requires public
companies to have at least one female director. Palantir stuck to
the minimum. 

With the exception of CEO Alex Karp, who is half Black, the
remaining members of the board are all white men. 

The other two new board seats went to Zillow founder Spencer
Racott and 8VC partner Alexander Moore, an early employee at
Palantir.

SEE ALSO: Palantir
lowers strike price for employees to buy equity in the company as
discounted shares flood the secondary markets


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Palantir's latest controversy is on its board: a Wall Street
Journal reporter who is friends with Peter Thiel and whose father
is the novelist Tom Wolfe