Gawker Media is auctioning itself off after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the wake of the $140 million judgment handed down against it. An attorney for the media group told a judge in Florida that it can’t pay the judgment won by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel.
Court documents show that Gawker has between 200 and 1,000 creditors and only $50 million to $100 million in assets against $100 million to $500 million in liabilities. Gawker Media owns seven blogs: Gawker.com, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Jalopnik, Kotaku, Jezebel and Deadspin. The group also owns a number of subsites underneath the main sites and is owned by British entrepreneur Nick Denton.
Ziff Davis makes an offer for Gawker Media properties
According to Re/code, Gawker told employees that it intends to keep running its publishing operations while appealing the case against Hogan and Thiel. However, the company also said it is officially taking bids and that publisher Ziff Davis has entered a formal bid to purchase the whole business for less than $100 million. CNN Money later pegged the offer at between $90 million and $100 million, citing unnamed sources.
Re/code reports that Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah issued a memo to employees stating that they had an agreement to buy seven of Gawker’s media properties. The website adds that although his memo specifically mentions intentions to purchase Gawker Media’s main website Gawker.com, the website isn’t listed when he describes the company’s plans to integrate the other names into Ziff Davis’ operations.
Shah states in the memo that the tech-centric websites Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Kotaku provide further fortification on their position in gaming and consumer technology, while Jalopnik, Jezebel and Deadspin “would broaden our position as a lifestyle publisher.” He also calls Gawker Media and Ziff Davis “a tremendous fit” in terms of brands, audience and monetization.
Gawker Media expects to receive more bids
Gawker Media and Mark Patricof, its banker, expect more bids to begin coming in during the bankruptcy process. Last year before the judgment was handed down in the Hogan case, Denton thought the media company was worth between $250 million and $300 million, said Re/code.
Although Gawker and Ziff Davis have entered an agreement, it seems unlikely that the company will be sold until the case involving Thiel and Hogan is fully resolved or restructuring is completed. Ziff Davis has already been through bankruptcy itself as it took a major hit amid the tumbling print industry. Today the company runs a number of websites that are focused on technology, like PCMag and IGN.
Peter Thiel seeks to take down Gawker Media
Gawker Media raised the ire of Hogan after publishing parts of a sex tape from 2012 which featured Hogan and Heather Cole, who at the time the tape was made was married to Bubba the Love Sponge, a radio shock jock based in Tampa. Bubba the Love Sponge was also a close friend of Hogan, and Cole testified during the trial that he asked her to have sex with Hogan and sometimes other men as well. Hogan said Gawker’s decision to publish the sex tape was an invasion of his privacy.
Thiel got involved by funding Hogan’s lawsuit, and he told The New York Times last month that he seeks to deter the company from the type of reporting he said it pioneered, which he described as a “risque and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people when when there was no connection with the public interest.” He added that funding Hogan’s lawsuit was one of his “greater philanthropic” activities ever.
According to CNN Money, Gawker’s websites have ridiculed Thiel for many years, poking fun of his failures in business and conservative views. He said last month that the company’s business is built on “humiliating people for sport.
Denton claims that the judgment in the case against Gawker Media sets a dangerous precedent for media outlets. He also asked Thiel to take part in a public debate.