Gawker goes bankrupt after losing Hulk Hogan sex-tape case

Bloomberg

Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy after losing a $140 million invasion-of-privacy suit brought by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and funded by tech billionaire Peter Thiel.

The digital media company listed a $130 million claim from the litigation as "disputed" in its Chapter 11 petition, filed Friday in Manhattan. The bankruptcy would shield New York-based Gawker from paying the potentially crippling damages award while it seeks a buyer. The company also asked the court to shield its founder and chief executive officer, Nick Denton, from the Hogan suit and other litigation.

Ziff Davis has signed an agreement to buy Gawker assets for around $100 million, according to a person familiar with the matter. That proposal would be open to competing bids, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the offer isn't public.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued the media- and celebrity-focused website in 2012 over the publication of a tape showing him having sex with a friend's wife, claiming the publication cost him endorsements and inflicted emotional harm. Thiel, the libertarian-leaning venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and sits on the board of Facebook, made a financial contribution to the suit.

Gawker and Thiel have a contentious history: The website outed him as gay in 2007. Thiel has since publicly acknowledged that he's gay, and called Gawker's now-defunct blog Valleywag the "Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaida." The dispute has evolved into a clash of tech titans, as First Look Media, a news organization founded by Silicon Valley billionaire Pierre Omidyar, has said it will support Gawker.

In an internal memo to employees, Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah said acquiring the Gawker websites Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Kotaku "would fortify our position in consumer tech and gaming."

Shah's memo did not mention the Gawker.com flagship site. Ziff Davis is focused on the Gawker brands in the tech, gaming and lifestyle categories, which contribute the vast majority of Gawker Media's revenue, according to a person familiar with the matter. Ziff Davis has not decided on what it would do with Gawker.com if it buys the company, the person said.

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