Gawker is down but not out. It will continue publishing one way or another, according to founder and CEO Nick Denton, who posted a defiant message on the gossip blog under the headline “Here Is the Good News” on Tuesday.
Denton’s post came amid speculation that tech and gaming publisher Ziff Davis, which has entered into a provisional agreement to buy Gawker Media, may decide to shut down the flagship gossip site if the deal goes through.
Ziff Davis is said to be interested in owning Gawker Media’s other sites, like Gizmodo, Jalopnik and Deadspin, but less enthused about acquiring the controversial Gawker.com property itself.
If Ziff Davis doesn’t want to continue publishing Gawker.com, Denton says the site will be sold to another investor who doesn’t shy away from its reputation for causing trouble, writing: “The brand is more famous than ever; if it does not fit an acquirer’s portfolio, Gawker.com will find an investor with a tolerance for controversy. I will happily contribute.”
For all that, Denton was also realistic about the impact of the lawsuits brought by pro wrestler Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Gene Bollea) and others. They got financial backing from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, in retribution for a post on the now-defunct Valleywag site outing him as gay:
“Yes, Peter Thiel’s covert legal vendetta has undoubtedly depressed Gawker Media Group’s valuation. His onslaught, prompted by items about Thiel and his friends on Gawker’s Valleywag, has been financially draining. Whoever buys us, it will not be for the sort of headline price that Henry Blodget or Arianna Huffington received when selling Business Insider to Axel Springer and Huffington Post to AOL. So be it.”
While admitting that Gawker has been damaged in a purely financial sense, Denton again expressed confidence the company will prevail in the next legal round of appeals. He presented its ordeal as a positive development highlighting the issue of press freedom.
“If you take a long view, the system is working as it should. The courts will apply the law. The real story is coming out. It always does. All sides are facing criticism and examining themselves. And a debate about the limits of the free press, and the limits of unaccountable power, is taking place,” he noted.
The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, received an infusion of $22 million in emergency loans from Cerberus Capital, which will allow it to maintain operations as it fights the $140 million judgment by a Florida jury in March.
The crushing financial punishment was the outcome of a high-profile lawsuit brought against Gawker by Bollea after the Web site published a video clip of Bollea having sex with the wife of his best friend, Florida radio personality “Bubba the Love Sponge.”