Gawker Has Filed for Bankruptcy and Says It Will Sell to Ziff Davis

Blog network was financially drained by legal battle with Hulk Hogan

Gawker Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Friday, shortly before announcing the iconic blog network has reached an agreement with Ziff Davis to purchase its seven brands and other assets.

Gawker's brands include, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik and Jezebel. 

"We are encouraged by the agreement with Ziff Davis, one of the most rigorously managed and profitable companies in digital media," said Gawker CEO and founder Nick Denton. "A combination would marry Ziff Davis' strength in ecommerce, licensing and video with [Gawker Media Group's] premium media brands."

Ziff Davis owns media brands such as PC Magazine, IGN and AskMen, among others. In a memo obtained by Recode, CEO Vivek Shah described the agreement as a "tremendous fit between the two organizations."

The filing (which you can read here via Poynter), which came with the U.S. Southern District of New York, is the latest, and widely expected, development in the years-long battle against Hulk Hogan, and later, tech billionaire Peter Thiel. In the bankruptcy filing, Gawker reported having less than $100 million in assets and more than $100 million in liabilities.

During the sale process, Gawker Media will maintain normal operations. Gawker is appealing the Hulk Hogan judgment, where it has been adamant it will prevail. However, Gawker was required to put up $50 million in escrow while the appeals process plays out. Gawker says the protection afforded by the bankruptcy filing will allow it to exercise its rights to due process. The sale will be conducted through a bankruptcy court-supervised auction, in which other bidders may offer a higher price for the company.

In March, Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, was awarded $140.1 million by a jury in his privacy lawsuit against Gawker. Hogan sued Gawker for $100 million for defamation, loss of privacy and emotional pain. In 2012, the blog published a snippet of a 2007 sex tape involving Hogan and the wife of local radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge, aka Todd Clem.

Last month, it was revealed that PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Thiel was bankrolling Hogan's, and others', lawsuits against Gawker in retaliation for years of being the subject of unglamorous stories from the 13-year-old media company. Shortly after the news of Thiel's involvement broke, Gawker shot down rumors it was looking to sell, saying at the time it was merely "contingency planning " against Thiel's revenge campaigning.

Gawker's filing came the same day that a Florida judge granted Gawker's motion to postpone the $140.1 million judgment a jury awarded to Hogan. Besides the Hogan suit, Gawker is facing lawsuits from a journalist and the self-described inventor of e-mail, who both say they were defamed.

Publish date: June 10, 2016 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT