Austria's Sebastian Kurz to work for US billionaire Peter Thiel

Former chancellor enters private sector after surprise departure from politics

Sebastian Kurz stunned Austria when announcing his departure from political life. Getty

Austria’s former chancellor Sebastian Kurz will work for a prominent Donald Trump-backing investor in his first job since dramatically quitting politics.

Mr Kurz, 35, will enter the private sector with Thiel Capital, a US company founded by billionaire political donor and early Facebook backer Peter Thiel.

The former chancellor confirmed to Austrian newspapers that he would start as a global strategist in the first quarter of 2022.

Once the poster boy of the European centre-right, Mr Kurz has known the conservative-leaning Mr Thiel since at least 2017 when they met at a security conference in Munich.

Back then, Mr Kurz said they discussed how “digitalisation changes the world”. The German-born Mr Thiel is a co-founder of PayPal, whose other investments include tech companies such as SpaceX and LinkedIn.

Mr Thiel donated $1.25 million to Mr Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, making him one of Silicon Valley's most prominent Trump backers.

He is a co-founder and director of Palantir, a data company that linked up with the Trump White House and UK health services during the pandemic, but has attracted controversy because of its use in US military software.

Mr Kurz was sometimes compared to Mr Trump after revamping his right-leaning party, putting a hard line on immigration at the heart of his political agenda and earning admiration from nationalists in other countries.

But they were at odds over other issues, with Mr Kurz criticising Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement that was negotiated in the Austrian capital.

In January, Mr Kurz described the mob attack on the US Capitol egged on by Mr Trump as an “unacceptable assault on democracy”.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 14: (L to R) Vice President-elect Mike Pence looks on as President-elect Donald Trump shakes the hand of Peter Thiel during a meeting with technology executives at Trump Tower, December 14, 2016 in New York City. This is the first major meeting between President-elect Trump and technology industry leaders. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

One of the world’s youngest elected leaders, having first taken office at 31, Mr Kurz was damaged by corruption allegations and resigned from the chancellery in October this year.

Mr Kurz was embroiled in claims that public funds were used to ensure positive coverage during his rise to the chancellorship. He denied all wrongdoing.

He initially remained party leader, prompting widespread speculation that he was biding his time for a comeback.

But he stunned Austria in early December by announcing his resignation from parliament and his departure from public life.

He described the ongoing scandal and the recent birth of his son as having dimmed his passion for politics. “I am neither a saint nor a criminal,” he said.

Updated: December 31st 2021, 3:32 PM