American entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel could be looking to buy online news site Gawker.com, multiple media reports say. This news comes only a year after the Silicon Valley billionaire funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that led to the site’s dramatic shutdown. Thiel’s lawyers have objected to the currently ongoing sale process of Gawker.com, saying that he has been prohibited unreasonably from bidding for the website's assets, according to news webiste BuzzFeed, citing a federal bankruptcy court filing.
Thiel, who is Facebook Inc’s first major investor and a co-founder of payment service PayPal, reportedly paid $10 million to help finance lawsuits against Gawker, including Hogan’s.
His lawyers claim in the filing that Thiel was prevented from receiving information for a potential bid for Gawker.com by plan administrator William Holden and his counsel, Gregg Galardi.
Holden and Galardi have been “maintaining selective secrecy over that process,” according to Thiel’s lawyers.
This filing, as reported by BuzzFeed, reads: “In light of the Plan Administrator's refusal to allow Mr. Thiel to participate in the sale process, Mr. Thiel's counsel requested that the Plan Administrator agree to pause the ongoing sale process so that a sale of the assets is not consummated until the issues concerning the Plan Administrator's blockade of Mr. Thiel as a bidder are resolved.”
The buyer of the site will also buy its archives that are still online, and will have the power to delete them if they wanted to.
Troubled times began for Gawker when former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s sued the gossip website for invasion of privacy. The lawsuit resulted in Gawker Media’s bankruptcy. Last November, Hogan was awarded at least $31 million from Gawker Media to settle his lawsuit over publication of a sex tape.
The case divided media and press-freedom advocates after it was revealed that Silicon Valley billionaire Thiel had funded Hogan’s case as part of an effort to drive Gawker out of business.
Hogan had been awarded $140 million by a Florida court for invasion of privacy over publication of the video showing him having sex with a friend’s wife.
The settlement called for him to be paid $31 million plus a share of Gawker assets sold as part of the bankruptcy process, according to court documents.
Reports say that Thiel is looking to buy the defunct website in order to stop any legal threats against him or to remove its content.
Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, said at the time in a blog post that the group agreed to the settlement instead of pursuing an appeal, because of Hogan's deep-pocketed backing from his arch-nemesis Thiel.
“We were confident the appeals court would reduce or eliminate the runaway Florida judgment,” Denton wrote.
“But all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people, and there was no end in sight.” It was, he confessed, a “hard peace,” one to which Denton had reluctantly agreed to.
In May 2016, Thiel acknowledged funding the legal battle against the gossip website that “outed” him as a homosexual in a 2007. “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel said in an interview at the time.
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.
Gawker shut its flagship website in August after it agreed to sell most of its assets to Spanish-language television network Univision for $135 million.
Some of the former Gawker Media news sites — Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku and Jalopnik — are now being operated by Univision.