Gawker to be sold this week, ending 14 years of independence

Posted at 3:02 PM, Aug 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-15 15:02:50-04
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton says there's a "whole bunch of inbound interest" from potential buyers and he's "looking at all possible outcomes" amid ongoing legal challenges.

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton says there’s a “whole bunch of inbound interest” from potential buyers and he’s “looking at all possible outcomes” amid ongoing legal challenges.

A summer that has already produced a Fox News without Roger Ailes and a Huffington Post without Arianna Huffington is about to add a third previously unthinkable shakeup: a Gawker Media without Nick Denton.

But by week’s end, Denton, 49, will no longer be the owner of the company he founded 14 years ago. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June, Gawker will be the subject of a court-supervised auction on Tuesday. Bids are due by 5 p.m. ET on Monday.

On the eve of the auction, which has drawn interest from several different media companies, Denton spoke about the health of his company.

“I’m proud of the shape of our brands and business, and proud of the people who work here,” Denton said via Gchat, his preferred mode of communication.

Denton has been trumpeting the success of Gawker Media’s brands ahead of Tuesday’s auction. He took to Twitter on Friday to tout the company’s traffic numbers, saying that Gawker’s sites have attracted “20% more readers than spring.”

The underlying implication is that Denton and his band of bloggers have persevered in spite of a devastating invasion of privacy lawsuit funded by a Silicon Valley billionaire.

The lawsuit, brought by the former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan over Gawker’s publication of footage showing him having sex, resulted in a $140.1 million judgment against Denton and his company earlier this year.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, himself a frequent subject of Gawker’s unsparing coverage, revealed in May that he financed Hogan’s lawsuit, along with others

“I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.” Thiel told the New York Times.

Under pressure from the weight of Hogan’s enormous judgment, Gawker was forced to file for bankruptcy two weeks after Thiel’s stunning revelation. Denton followed suit earlier this month, filing for personal bankruptcy to prevent Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, from seizing his assets.

Gawker’s bankruptcy filing in June confirmed that Denton would soon lose ownership of the company, which he launched out of his apartment in 2002.

The tech publisher Ziff Davis submitted what is known as a “stalking-horse” bid, setting the auction floor at $90 million. Other potential bidders are said to be in the mix, including Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States.

Univision has ramped up its digital media ambitions this year, buying a stake in The Onion in January. Earlier this year, Univision and Gawker teamed up to create Spanish-language versions of a pair of Gawker sites: Gizmodo and Lifehacker.

A Univision spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, the New York Times reported on a handful of other possible Gawker suitors — including Penske Media, which owns Deadline and Variety, and New York Magazine.