Back in 2016, news site Gawker was forced to file for bankruptcy shortly after being sued by former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, for releasing a sex tape of him without his permission several years prior. Now, billionaire investor and outspoken Trump supporter Peter Thiel, who helped fund the lawsuit against the media outlet largely because they had outed him as gay, appears to be looking to buy what remains of the site.
Specifically, it was recently revealed that Thiel has placed a bid for an unknown amount to buy Gawker’s remaining assets despite the company’s lawyers futile attempt to block him from doing so. The company’s assets reportedly include its domain names and nearly 200,000 archived articles.
Reuters: Peter Thiel has made an offer to buy Gawker
— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) January 11, 2018
Although it’s still unclear why he wants to buy the website that he helped destroy, one possible reason for wanting to purchase it could be the fact that if he ends up acquiring it, he’d be able to delete the stories that were published about him. On top of this, he could also use copyright law to force the removal of any other online copy of the article.
Unsurprisingly, Thiel’s attempt to purchase Gawker has received a massive amount of pushback from the company’s bankruptcy plan administrator and bankruptcy lawyer, who’re both actively trying to block him from purchasing it. If Thiel ultimately loses the bid, however, he could still possibly obtain the company through appeal.
Thiel’s bid to buy Gawker comes about a year after the company settled a lawsuit involving a Hulk Hogan sex-tape that they had published several years ago. “After four years of litigation funded by a billionaire with a grudge going back even further, a settlement has been reached. The saga is over,” wrote Gawker Media’s founder Nick Denton in a statement shortly after settling with Hogan.
“As the most unpalatable part of the deal, three true stories — about Hulk Hogan, the claim by Shiva Ayyadurai that he invented email and the feud between the founders of Tinder — are being removed from the web,” continued Denton in the statement. “[An] all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people, and there was no end in sight,” he added, noting, “Gawker’s nemesis was not going away.”
To clarify, he stated, “the Valley billionaire, famously relentless, had committed publicly to support Hulk Hogan beyond the appeal and “until his final victory…For Thiel, an investor in Facebook and Palantir, the cost of this exercise is less than 1% of his net worth and a little additional notoriety.”
Towards the end of the statement, Denton promised that he “will continue to work on topic forums” because he’s “still convinced that the internet can bring people together in shared understanding rather than just triggering conflict between them.” He also mentioned that “Hulk Hogan’s retirement will be comfortable.”
Before concluding, Denton added, “it’s a shame the Hogan trial took place without the motives of the plaintiff’s backer being known. If there is a lasting legacy from this experience, it should be a new awareness of the danger of dark money in litigation finance. And that’s surely in the spirit of the transparency Gawker was founded to promote. As for Peter Thiel himself, he is now for a wider group of people to contemplate.”
Hopefully, other companies learn from what happened with Gawker so that they can avoid making a similar mistake in the future. If they don’t, then it’s likely that they’ll suffer a similar fate.