The New York-based blog’s other assets, including sites like Gizmodo and Jezebel, will continue under new ownership.
Gawker will shutter its flagship website next week, after a court order to pay $140 million to retired wrestling star Hulk Hogan over a sex tape drove the company to bankruptcy. The announcement on Thursday came two days after Spanish-language broadcast television network Univision made a winning bid of $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 approved the Univision deal. Those working at Gawker.com will be given jobs at the websites being sold to Univision or elsewhere in that company, according to the post.
Gawker Media websites include Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and Jezebel, which are devoted to interests ranging from games and cars to sports, technology and women’s empowerment. Not included in the Univision deal is 14-year-old Gawker.com or Denton, who had hoped the bankruptcy auction would keep the website alive.
“Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage,” Denton said in a farewell message to employees posted online. “We have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com. The campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers has made it too risky. I can understand the caution.”
In a sign that Gawker.com might plan to go down swinging, a post there late Thursday invited people to send tips worth pursuing.
Univision confirmed the Gawker deal on Thursday, saying it will take over the six websites, which reach nearly 50 million readers monthly. Gawker assets will be integrated into a Fusion Media Group division at Univision to join The Onion and other offerings aimed at young, diverse audiences it considers to be “the rising American mainstream.”
“I expect the addition of these digital-first media assets will help FMG exceed the demands of the young, cross-cultural influencers we serve,” Univision Communications Inc. chief news, entertainment and digital officer Isaac Lee said in a release.
In March, a U.S. jury ordered that wrestling star Hogan be allowed to collect $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 that and other litigation 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 this week. “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.