Tech billionaire Alex Karp gives $180K to ousted hermit River Dave

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Jodie Gedeon, left, hugs David Lidstone, 81, right, on Aug. 5, after Lidstone was released from Merrimack County Jail. Photo/Geoff Forester, Concord Monitor

River Dave will be able to build a new home thanks to an unexpected benefactor: Palantir Technologies CEO and billionaire Alexander Karp, who gave former hermit David Lidstone a personal check for $180,000 last week.

Jodie Gedeon, a kayaker friend of Lidstone, announced the donation on a Facebook group for Lidstone’s supporters. Gedeon said a lawyer representing Karp delivered the check on Aug. 11. The money will be used to build a new home for Lidstone, after the cabin he built along the Merrimack River burned down weeks ago amid a property dispute.

Lisa Gordon, a Palantir spokesperson speaking on Karp’s behalf, confirmed the donation but declined to comment further. Karp lives in New Hampshire’s Grafton County.

“How can I express myself and my gratitude towards something like that? I start to tear up whenever I think about it,” Lidstone said. “For an old logger who always had to work, for anyone to give you that type of money, it’s incredibly difficult for me to get my head around.”

The money will go towards rebuilding elsewhere, Gedeon said. “Right now we set up a trust for Dave and it’s going to be utilized to build him a new home. We have this temporary house set-up for the winter but we’re not going to be able to build until spring,” Gedeon said. She said they are keeping the location of Lidstone’s winter digs private.

After he was jailed on July 15 for refusing to leave the Canterbury land where he was squatting, Lidstone has received an outpouring of support and offers for help. One potential space for him to rebuild is on a nearby property owned by the congregation of the Concord Friends Meeting.

Karp co-founded data mining company Palantir Technologies in 2003. The company, which received early funding from the CIA and makes software used by governments and businesses, received criticism for working with U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement during the Trump administration. Forbes puts Karp’s net worth at $2.2 billion.

“I truly believe it’s in Mr. Karp’s nature to do this,” Gedeon said. “He is a sincere person cares about others. He has humanity; he does the right thing.”

On Saturday, Lidstone and friends celebrated the donation and his homecoming after his stint at Merrimack County Jail at a party at the home of friend Tom Dunne. 

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Cassidy Jensen

Cassidy Jensen is a reporter for the Concord Monitor.