Univision makes offer for Gawker Media

NEW YORK • Univision Holdings has offered to acquire Gawker Media, challenging a US$90 million (S$121 million) stalking horse bid from media company Ziff Davis in the auction for the United States Internet publisher, people familiar with the matter said.

Univision's bid for Gawker illustrates how the US Spanish-language broadcaster is seeking to expand its digital media properties, and is not shying away from a news brand that has often courted controversy to build a cult readership.

Despite the media hype usually associated with Gawker, however, Univision's sole bid shows that interest in the auction was otherwise limited.

An investment banker representing Gawker said in court last month that he had a list of 40 potential buyers he planned to market the company to.

The sources asked not to be identified because the bankruptcy auction is still in progress. Univision and Gawker offered no immediate comment. Forbes magazine reported on Univision's bid for Gawker on Monday.

Gawker filed for bankruptcy in June, with a pre-packaged acquisition proposal from Ziff Davis, setting the floor for any other offers at the bankruptcy auction.

The New York-based publisher sought bankruptcy after facing a US$140 million court judgment following an invasion of privacy lawsuit from former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan over the publication of excerpts from a sex tape.

Mr Hogan's lawsuit was bankrolled by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, an early backer of Facebook and a co-founder of PayPal. Gawker Media chief executive officer Nick Denton filed for personal bankruptcy earlier this month.

Bids for Gawker, which also includes women's website Jezebel, sports site Deadspin and car enthusiast site Jalopnik, were due on Monday.

Ziff Davis can also raise its initial bid at the auction, scheduled to take place in private at the offices of Gawker's bankruptcy attorneys. A winning bid will then be selected, along with a backup bid.

Subsequently, a US judge will have to approve the proposal selected as the winning bid in bankruptcy court on Aug 18.

Gawker and Mr Denton were influential forces in the growth of online media, developing a direct, conversational and sometimes- slashing style that dispensed with many journalistic conventions and was widely imitated.

Its eagerness to dish salacious gossip was often condemned, but it was also one of the few early digital publishers to build a profitable independent business.

Once a powerful technology trade publisher, Ziff Davis went through bankruptcy of its own in 2008 and now produces consumer technology websites, including AskMen, Computer Shopper and Geek.com.

Univision owns a Spanish language broadcast network that sometimes beats English language US broadcasters such as NBC in the prime time ratings race. It also owns another broadcast channel called UniMas, as well as several cable networks and a stable of Spanish radio stations. Earlier this year, Univision acquired a minority stake in satirical website publisher the Onion.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2016, with the headline 'Univision makes offer for Gawker Media'. Print Edition | Subscribe