SAN FRANCISCO — Peter Thiel is a billionaire, the biggest Donald J. Trump supporter in Trump-hating Silicon Valley and, above all, someone who prides himself on doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing.
So it makes perfect sense that right after President Trump proclaimed that "the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America," Mr. Thiel was revealed to have become in 2011 a citizen of a small country on the other side of the world: New Zealand.
In these uncertain times, it may be smart to have a backup country. But the news that one of the richest citizens of New Zealand was a naturalized American who was born in Germany set off an immediate furor in the island nation, with questions being raised about whether being a billionaire gets you special treatment.
If you like New Zealand enough to want to become a citizen, the country's Department of Internal Affairs noted on Wednesday, you are usually supposed to actually live there. Mr. Thiel does not appear to have done this.
The investor, who retains his American citizenship, was one of the biggest backers of Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign. Mr. Thiel reveled in his unusual position, giving a speech shortly before Election Day outlining the reasons for his support. He was vilified for it in tech circles.
Mr. Thiel, worth a reported $2.7 billion, was a founder of the online payments site PayPal and the data company Palantir. He secretly funded the lawsuit that killed off Gawker, the network of gossip sites that outed him, accurately, as gay.
When Mr. Trump won, Mr. Thiel emerged as a key adviser. He has spent much of the time since the election in New York, advising the transition team. His recommendations are under consideration for significant jobs.
As a byproduct, he has become famous, a fate many of his peers in Silicon Valley would go out of their way to avoid. Mr. Thiel has been reported as a possible Supreme Court justice, as a potential candidate for governor of California, and, most recently, as President Trump's potential ambassador to Germany.
Mr. Thiel's admiration for New Zealand is longstanding. "Utopia," he once called it. He has an investment firm in the country that has put millions into local start-ups. He also owns lavish properties there, which his Silicon Valley friends hope to fly to in the event of a worldwide pandemic.