Gawker Media, the pioneering digital media company beset by legal entanglements fueled by a Silicon Valley billionaire, filed for bankruptcy this afternoon.
The filing is a maneuver intended to prevent Hulk Hogan — the ex-professional wrestler who earlier this year won a $140-million-plus invasion-of-privacy judgment against Gawker Media — from collecting his bounty, according to Recode’s Peter Kafka:
Gawker and owner Nick Denton are making the Chapter 11 filing today, in order to avoid paying Thiel and Hulk Hogan the $140 million judgement they won in Hogan’s privacy trial earlier this year.
Gawker has told it employees it still plans to fight the Thiel/Hogan case and to operate its publishing business while it does so.
Gawker Media will now be put up for auction, with a $100 million offer from publisher Ziff Davis LLC as the opening bid.
The bankruptcy and sale are intended as a bulwark against a raft of lawsuits launched against Gawker Media on behalf of Peter Thiel, the billionaire PayPal founder who’s bankrolling multiple cases against the company with the intent to snuff it out. The case could “take years to resolve,” according to The Wall Street Journal:
Proceeds from a sale will go into a fund to finance further litigation costs and cover whatever damages may ultimately be leveled following the appeals process, which could take years to resolve. Gawker has said that it expects to ultimately prevail.
In a statement, Gawker Founder Nick Denton said the company was “encouraged” by the prospect of its sale to Ziff Davis.
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.
Denton was defiant on Twitter shortly after news of the sale broke:
Even with his billions, Thiel will not silence our writers. Our sites will thrive — under new ownership — and we'll win in court.
— Nick Denton (@nicknotned) June 10, 2016
Gawker plans to continue operating while it proceeds with the auction and fights off the legal challenge from Hogan, according to Politico:
The money for the sale will be put in escrow while Gawker appeals the Hogan case. If the $140.1 million judgment is upheld on appeal, then the money held in escrow will go to Hogan. If the judgment is overturned on appeal, then the money held in escrow will be returned to Denton and the company’s other shareholders.
You can view the filing here.