Gawker.com will close up shop next week, following the sale of bankrupt parent company Gawker Media to Univision, which bid $135 million. Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder and chief executive officer, will exit the company under the new leadership.
The news comes after a U.S. bankruptcy court judge in Manhattan approved Univision’s winning bid for its assets, which includes a handful of sites such as Jezebel, Gizmodo and Deadspin.
Denton informed Gawker.com staffers of the site’s fate on Thursday. The site will continue its news coverage until Monday and its archives will remain online.
Launched nearly 14 years ago, Gawker.com was known for its scrappy, rakish and sometimes risqué storytelling, which helped it draw web traffic, but also controversy.
The embattled media company, which was founded in 2002, has been in the news for more than a year, thanks to a well-publicized trial against Terry Bollea aka Hulk Hogan. Bollea sued Gawker after it posted a clip of Bollea having sex with a friend’s then-wife in 2012. In court, Bollea claimed the video was taken without his knowledge. After a two-week trial, a Florida state jury found that Gawker, in publishing the video, had violated the plaintiff’s right to privacy.
The suit, which was bankrolled by Silicon Valley mogul Peter Thiel, led to a massive $140.1 million judgment in favor of Bollea, and eventually Denton’s decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June.
Digital media firm Ziff Davis had emerged as the stalking horse bidder with an offer of $90 million. Since then, there have been rumbles of potential suitors showing interest, such as Vox Media and WWD parent company Penske Media Corp. But Univision, the Spanish-language television network and digital media company, which owns Fusion, The Onion and several other properties, was the only other firm to put down a sizable bid for Denton’s Gawker.
It is presumed that Univision made the decision to let go of Denton in part, to avoid further lawsuits from Thiel, who had been a subject of Gawker scrutiny for years.
In his farewell letter to staff, Denton said: “I am relieved that, with the approval today of the agreement with Univision, that we have found the best possible harbor for Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Jalopnik, Jezebel and Deadspin, and our talented writers and other staff.”
He continued: “Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage. Desirable though the other properties are, 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….I will move on to other projects, working to make the web a forum for the open exchange of ideas and information, but out of the news and gossip business. Gawker.com may, like Spy Magazine in its day, have a second act. For the moment, however, it will be mothballed, until the smoke clears and a new owner can be found. The archives will remain, but Monday’s posts will be the last of this iteration.”