Univision, recognized best for its Spanish-language television network, won a bidding war for Gawker Media.
Gawker was founded 14 years ago, and The New York Times credits it as influencing news media both online and off, with its “unsparing approach to web journalism.”
That unsparing approach ended up biting Gawker in the rear, however, when Terry G. Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, sued the website for invading his privacy after they released a video of him having sex with a friend’s wife. The lawsuit ended in a whopping $140 million judgement, which forced Gawker to file for bankruptcy in June. Bollea (Hogan) has not been able to collect the judgment amount because of the bankruptcy filing. Founder and chief executive, Nick Denton, is personally responsible for $10 million and jointly for $115 million. He also filed for bankruptcy this month.
Gawker’s revenue through July was only $17.8 million. It brought in a reported $48.7 million in 2015. They built their “empire” on gossip of the “unsparing” sort.
Bollea’s suit was backed up and funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel who was outed by Gawker in 2007. Another similar incident last year, where an article outed a heterosexually married media executive for seeking a gay escort; the article was removed but two lead editors quit. Mr. Denton decided to make the site nicer.
It is unclear what Univision’s vision for Gawker is. The company has recently been expanding its portfolio by purchasing sites like The Root, which is focused on black-American issues. It also invested in a large stake in The Onion and gained full control of a site it cofounded with The Walt Disney Company, Fusion. Mr. Denton seemed optimistic that the site may be able to function pretty much as usual. Univision will retain Gawker’s employees. Mr. Denton stated that they “could not have picked an acquirer more devoted to vibrate journalism” and that he was happy his employees would now be removed from the legal and financial turmoil caused to Bollea and Thiel’s lawsuit.
The New York Times believes Gawker may be able to function fairly independently, retaining the integrity of its original and influential reporting style.
Univision will not take on responsibility for the $140 million.