Gawker.com to shut down next week

Gawker was ordered to pay US$140 million (S$187 million) to retired wrestling star Hulk Hogan (above) for releasing a sex tape.
Gawker was ordered to pay US$140 million (S$187 million) to retired wrestling star Hulk Hogan (above) for releasing a sex tape.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Gawker said Thursday (Aug 18) its flagship website will shut down next week, after a court order to pay US$140 million (S$187 million) to retired wrestling star Hulk Hogan over a sex tape drove the company to file for bankruptcy.

The announcement came just two days after Spanish-language broadcast television network Univision made a winning bid of US$135 million for Gawker’s other assets.

Gawker founder Nick Denton broke the news to staff members on the same day that a bankruptcy court judge in Manhattan was to decide whether to sign-off on Univision’s offer, according to a post at Gawker.com.

In March, a US jury ordered that wrestling star Hogan be allowed to collect US$140 million in total compensation after Gawker published a videotape of him having sex with a friend’s wife.

Gawker filed for bankruptcy in June in an attempt to sidestep a shutdown from the judgment.

Denton earlier this month filed for personal bankruptcy protection in a bid to stop his assets from being seized because of the judgment.

The case drew heightened attention when tech billionaire Peter Thiel acknowledged that he had helped fund the litigation and others against Gawker, a company Thiel has feuded with for years since it “outed” him as gay.

“For my part, I am proud to have contributed financial support to his case,” Thiel, who bankrolled the Hogan lawsuit, said in an op-ed piece in The New York Times Monday.

“It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people’s sex lives.” Denton has slammed what he called a “personal vendetta” and said in a memo to staff that it was “disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage.”

While Gawker has come under fire for its no-holds-barred approach to celebrity coverage, the case raised questions about whether powerful interests can use their resources to silence media for unfavorable coverage.

German-born Thiel was a founder of the online payments firm PayPal, and served as its chief executive before it was sold to eBay. He was also an early investor in Facebook and has been active in venture investing in Silicon Valley.