President Donald Trump did not get a lot of love (or money) from Silicon Valley for his November election victory. The well-known exception was Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and early investor in Facebook. Thiel’s personal fortune is estimated at $2.7 billion, and acknowledging his support, Trump named Thiel to his transition team.
But Thiel has a $7 billion problem. His investment firm, Mithril Capital, backed a telecom startup named Rivada Networks and the company’s bid for a $7 billion contract to operate a 4G wireless network in Mexico. The company did not win the award, but, as Hunter S. Thompson once said, when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.
Rivada went on to sue the Mexican government after it lost a November spectrum auction to its only rival for the contract, Mexico’s Altán. One of Altán’s advisors, a British telecom expert named Richard Alden, was arrested on suspicion of murdering a woman in Kenya.
The New York Post has the full story, but here are a few highlights of the charges brought in the Rivada lawsuit.
- The country’s telecom department, the Secretaria de Communicaciones y Transportes [SCT], allowed Altán to review non-public bidding documents. Altán has denied the claims.
- The SCT forced Dish Network chief Charlie Ergen’s Echostar out of the Rivada group just four days before the spectrum auction citing antitrust issues. That forced Rivada to re-arrange its financing, and caused a delay in submitting a letter of credit. The SCT declared that the bid had missed the deadline.
- Altán is backed by the China Mexico Fund and is allegedly planning to use Chinese technology to build out the network. The fund owns about 23.4% of Altán and sources say that Altán has not yet selected technology providers.
According the Post’s report, Altán is expected to sign the spectrum deal “within days.” The Mexican firm calls Rivada “sore losers.”