Billionaire shut down Gawker but wants to bid for it

NEW YORK • He helped shut down online news site Gawker, but billionaire Peter Thiel now wants to buy it.

According to people familiar with the matter, the venture capitalist has made an offer for the news site.

The site, which has been inactive for more than a year, is conducting an auction of its remaining assets, including its domain names and nearly 200,000 archived articles.

Most of its assets, including its sister pages Deadspin, a sports site, and Jezebel, a feminist blog, were bought in 2016 for US$135 million (S$179 million) by media company Univision Holdings.

Mr Thiel - Facebook's first major investor and a co-founder of payment service PayPal - has not explained his move. But any acquisition would let him take down stories regarding his personal life that are still available on the site and remove the scope for further litigation between him and Gawker.

Gawker's bankruptcy plan administrator Will Holden and the website's bankruptcy lawyer Gregg Galardi have tried to block the bid.

Mr Galardi in November asked a United States bankruptcy court to deny Mr Thiel's request to bid, saying the latter is "not a 'proper' purchaser" because he could end up as the target of litigation.

Mr Thiel funded Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker after the site published a sex tape featuring the former professional wrestler. Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea, won a US$140-million judgment and later settled for US$31 million.

In 2007, Gawker published a story about Mr Thiel's homosexuality.

Multiple bidders have submitted offers for the site, Mr Holden said on Thursday. If he excludes Mr Thiel's bid, the latter could ask the judge to consider it if it is higher than rival offers.

A group of former Gawker employees this week abandoned its effort to bid, a source said.

It had launched a campaign seeking US$500,000 via fund-raising site Kickstarter, but failed to reach their goal and returned the US$90,000 it collected.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2018, with the headline 'Billionaire shut down Gawker but wants to bid for it'. Print Edition | Subscribe