Univision’s pending $135 million acquisition of Gawker Media won’t include Gawker.com, the site at the center of a losing privacy court case that drove the company into bankruptcy.
By Leon Lazaroff
Gawker.com will be closed after Univision Holdings, which agreed this week to acquire the other websites owned by bankrupt Gawker Media, declined to take over the embattled site.
At a staff meeting on Thursday, Nick Denton, founder and owner of Gawker Media,told company employees that the company’s 14-year-old flagship website would be shuttered next week.
“We have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com,” Denton wrote in an e-mailed memo sent later in the day to his employees. “The campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers has made it too risky. I can understand the caution.”
New York-based Univision viewed Gawker.com as irreparably damaged after losing an invasion of privacy lawsuit in March to the former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan. A Florida jury said Gawker.com violated the wrestler’s privacy when it published parts of a video showing him having sex with the wife of a friend at the time.
Gawker Media was then ordered to pay Hogan, whose legal name is Terry G. Bollea, $115 million in damages — later increased to $140 million. The ruling forced Gawker to file for Chapter 11 protection on June 10. Gawker Media owner Nick Denton followed his company into bankruptcy on Aug. 1.
Gawker has since appealed the judgment while calling out the venture capital billionaire Peter Thiel for having bankrolled Bollea’s court case. In 2007, a since-closed Gawker publication Valleywag wrote that Thiel is gay, questioning why tech heavyweights in Silicon Valley chose to keep their sexual preference private despite living in the famously tolerant Bay Area.
“Even if the appeals court overturns this spring’s Florida jury verdict, Peter Thiel has already achieved many of his objectives,” Denton added.
Univision agreed on Tuesday to pay $135 million for Gawker Media’s other sites: Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Jalopnik, Deadspin and Jezebel. That transaction was approved on Thursday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
Univision said it will integrate Gawker Media’s other sites with Fusion, its millennial-focused pop culture and news site as well as its other Internet holdings, African-America focused The Root and the satrical site, The Onion, for which it holds a minority interest.
Taken together, Univision said its digital media assets will reach nearly 75 million unique visitors per month, citing figures from the media measurement firm comScore. Gawker Media’s sites, including Gawker.com, attracted 56 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore.
Univision’s asset purchase agreement, filed Wednesday, gave the acquirer the option to exclude Gawker.com up to three days before closing of the deal.
Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster, beat out lead bidder Ziff Davis at a Tuesday auction. Ziff Davis, which initially offered $90 million, bowed out of the bidding following a $131 million final offer, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
Univision, controlled by billionaire Haim Saban, has been heading toward an initial public offering, though it has yet to set an anticipated price range since first revealing its IPO plans in July 2015.
Source: The Street