Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, filed for bankruptcy on Monday in the wake of a legal judgment that awarded former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan $141.1 million.
The lawsuit, which was bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, forced Denton to sell the company in an auction later this month. Gawker Media has also declared bankruptcy, but its eight editorial brands are continuing to operate normally.
In a memo to staff Monday, Denton said he was “in a positive frame of mind” in anticipation of a new owner:
For once, the journalistic cliché is appropriate: We’ve spoken truth to power. Sometimes uncomfortable truths. Sometimes gossipy truths. But truths. There is a price to pay for that, and I am paying it now. But we never gave up our souls in the pursuit of an easy life.
Ziff Davis, the owner of IGN, AskMen and PC Magazine, has put in an offer to buy Gawker Media for less than $100 million, according to Recode.
News of Denton’s filing was reported first by Politico.
Here’s the full memo:
You may have seen the news that I have, as expected, had to join the company in bankruptcy. Peter Thiel’s legal campaign has targeted individual writers like Sam Biddle, editors such as John Cook, and me as publisher. It is a personal vendetta. And yes, it’s a disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage.
Still, I’m in a positive frame of mind, because our influential brands will soon be free to thrive under new ownership, and our very existence as an independent entity has been a triumph. For once, the journalistic cliché is appropriate: We’ve spoken truth to power. Sometimes uncomfortable truths. Sometimes gossipy truths. But truths. There is a price to pay for that, and I am paying it now. But we never gave up our souls in the pursuit of an easy life.
What really lifts my spirits is the way in which we have stood together and just kept on writing, coding, and selling. Our stories reached 12 million more people around the world in July (104m) than they did in April (92m), before the bankruptcy. We were all over the political conventions and Pokémon Go, among other stories.
Eyal just sent round a note saying that last week brought in a million dollars in direct advertising bookings, positioning us well for a further rebound once the future direction of the business is clear. Amazon Prime Day was 63 percent up on last year, with $7m in sales for merchant partners, underlining the unique credibility that brands such as Gizmodo have with consumers.
Every department has kept focus and momentum. The pace of product development is sure and rapid. Our writers are the most productive and effective in digital media. The sales materials are more coherent and professional than they have ever been. Our sites dominate news in categories like technology, cars, and video games.
The brands and the business, which we have built together, are in amazingly robust shape. We’ll go into the final stage of the sale with confidence in our continued momentum, and the knowledge that we’ve all been witnesses to a media miracle.
This is a company founded by a journalist, built around a journalistic mission, beholden only to readers. We can be proud that we survived and prospered as an independent company for more than a decade, and have a second act ahead of us, under the shelter finally of a larger media company.