However, Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton remained defiant, vowing to continue its legal defense against pro wrestler and media personality Hulk Hogan (real name, Terry Gene Bollea) and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who is providing financial backing for the lawsuit against Gawker.
Simultaneously with the bankruptcy filing, Gawker revealed that it has struck a preliminary agreement to be acquired by longtime tech and gaming publisher Ziff Davis -- which owns PC magazine, among other media properties -- for around $90 million.
The Ziff Davis offer is just the opening bid in a court-supervised auction, however, so higher bids may be forthcoming from other quarters.
Denton stated: “We are encouraged by the agreement with Ziff Davis, one of the most rigorously managed and profitable companies in digital media. A combination would marry Ziff Davis’ strength in e-commerce, licensing and video with GMG’s premium media brands.”
Gawker's sale follows the crushing judgment issued by a Florida jury in March. After a trial revolving around questions such as whether and when an individual’s penis size is newsworthy, a Florida jury awarded nine-digit damages to Hogan. His lawyers argued that Gawker violated his privacy by posting a 90-second film of the entertainer having sex with the wife of his friend, radio personality Todd Allen Clem (better known as Bubba the Love Sponge).
Gawker is appealing the judgment. Denton previously noted a number of details, excluded from consideration by the jury in the first trial, which may come up during the appeals hearing, and which he believes will vindicate the company. Among other things, Denton claimed that Hogan’s real reason for suing Gawker was to prevent the publication of another damaging tape in which he is heard using racial slurs.
The legal drama returned to the spotlight recently with the revelation that Thiel, whom Gawker outed as a homosexual in 2007, had funded Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker in an attempt to silence the site.
After news of the bankruptcy and tentative sale to Ziff Davis broke, Denton tweeted: “Even with his billions, Thiel will not silence our writers. Our sites will thrive – under new ownership – and we’ll win in court.”