Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton spoke at Code Conference for roughly 45 minutes on Thursday in a discussion with Kara Swisher and an empty chair, which was reserved for Denton’s arch rival, billionaire Peter Thiel.
Thiel, who admitted to funding anti-Gawker lawsuits, was recently challenged to a public debate by Denton, hence the empty chair; he didn’t show.
CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla told TheWrap that despite Thiel’s no show, Denton “comes across as someone who has his tail between his legs, because he’s obviously facing an existential crisis.”
Thiel remains upset at Gawker for trying to out him as gay nearly a decade ago and is now funding the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that threatens to put Gawker out of business.
“There are stories among them that I’m not proud of that did step over the mark,” Denton said during the discussion about coverage decisions made by the site. “We were wild. A lot of that was good, some wasn’t.”
Denton admitted, “Gawker has “absolutely tightened up” its culture.
Quintanilla, who was in attendance, questioned how Gawker will continue to grow and bring in revenue with “arguably a less splashy product,” anticipating this will be a hot topic in the coming weeks.
“He said his biggest regret is not understanding the consequences of the editorial freedom that he felt he ran Gawker with,” Quintanilla said. “Sort of a non-apology apology.”
Code Conference wraps up today in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The three-day event aims to bring leaders of media and technology together. A live blog of Denton’s entire discussion is available here.