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Nick Denton Era of Gawker Over After Univision Buys Company

Nick Denton Era of Gawker Over After Univision Buys Company

Randy Falco Nick Denton and Hulk Hogan
Randy Falco Nick Denton and Hulk Hogan

The embattled media company was reportedly purchased for $135 million.

It's a done deal. Gawker Media, the embattled company that recently filed for bankruptcy after being sued by former WWE star Hulk Hogan, was bought by Univision in a public auction Tuesday evening. The website collective, which was founded by gay entrepreneur Nick Denton, went for $135 million.

The only other bidder was Ziff Davis, which owns websites such a PC Magazine and Ask Men. It offered $90 million, despite the company's reported valuation at more than $250 million.

"I am pleased that our employees are protected and will continue their work under new ownership -- disentangled from the legal campaign against the company," Denton told press following the company's sale. "We could not have picked an acquirer more devoted to vibrant journalism."

Denton will no longer be involved with Gawker Media under its new ownership, a source familiar with the deal told The Wall Street Journal. Univision, the Spanish-language broadcasting corporation best known for its television programs and high-profile anchors such as Jorge Ramos, has sought to expand its online presence in recent months.

Last year the company bought out Disney's shares in Fusion, a television network aimed at a millennial, digitally engaged audience. The network's website, which features stories about pop culture, politics, and current events, averages 8.5 million a month, as Business Insider reported in December.

Univision has also increased its holdings in the satirical news site The Onion and The Root, a social justice-oriented website with a predominantly African-American readership.

The purchase of Gawker Media ends a months-long saga for the company, after a Florida court sided with Hogan in a legal dispute last year. In 2012, its flagship website, Gawker, posted a video of the onetime pro wrestler having sex with the wife of his best friend, the radio DJ Bubba the Love Sponge.

Hogan claimed its release was an invasion of privacy, while Gawker Media claimed that the sex tape, which also shows the former WWE star unleashing a string a racial epithets, was in the public interest.

Hogan won the case and was awarded $140 million in damages.

Following the judgment, it was revealed that billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel had been funding Hogan's legal bills with the intent of destroying the company. Nine years ago, Thiel was outed by Gawker Media on Valleywag, its now-defunct site that focused on Silicon Valley news and gossip.

"I had begun coming out to people I knew, and I planned to continue on my own terms," Thiel would later write in a New York Times op-ed. "Instead, Gawker violated my privacy and cashed in on it."

He described himself as "proud" of having caused the company financial ruin.

Many believe, however, that there's an upside for Gawker Media: With the resources of a multimillion dollar-company at its back, it will be difficult for others to follow in Thiel's footsteps.

"Univision is bigger, richer, and more powerful than Gawker," the BBC notes. "Mr. Thiel would have to dig even deeper to take it on -- and so the investor's multi-million dollar attempt to wipe Gawker off the Internet appears to have failed, just as many press freedom advocates had hoped it would."

For others, though, Gawker Media's sale is the end of an era.

"The bankruptcy and the lawsuit were the end of Gawker as we knew it," Karen North, a professor at University of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times."When you get into bigger and bigger companies, they impose more rules. ...Gawker had a formula that worked. Whether it can work with more limits put on them is a question that will be answered very soon."

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