Gawker.com will shut down next week, but if founder Nick Denton is so inclined — and a few chips fall his way — it’s not inconceivable to imagine him overseeing the controversial site again.
Jerrold Bregman, bankruptcy expert at Brutzkus Gubner, thinks Denton can get his website back if the $140 million judgment awarded to Hulk Hogan in his case against Gawker is drastically reduced — or tossed altogether — upon appeal.
“If the judgment is reduced, that means far less cash would be needed to pay Hogan through the bankruptcy, and the equity owners of the company would then receive the net remaining proceeds,” Bregman told TheWrap. “If Denton has extra cash, he can invest it however he likes.”
Univision won an auction earlier this week for parent company Gawker Media and will retain its other assets while shutting down operations for the namesake website. Univision now owns Gawker.com, but doesn’t plan on doing anything with it.
“Even if the appeals court overturns this spring’s Florida jury verdict, Peter Thiel has already achieved many of his objectives,” Denton said in a memo to staffers on Thursday. “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.”
While this sounds good and will help lift morale at Gawker Media headquarters, it’s safe to assume Denton would reconsider if he had tens of millions of dollars sitting in his bank account.
Gawker.com is Denton’s baby. He founded it 14 years ago and has been hands-on ever since. If he winds up with extra cash as a result of a favorable Hogan appeal, all it would take is for Denton and Univision to agree on a price that benefits both parties.
“There is no law that would prohibit that,” Bregman said. “There isn’t a reason why Denton couldn’t do that.”
In his memo to staffers, Denton left the door ajar for a potential return: “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.”
In March, a Florida jury awarded former pro wrestler Hogan a total of $140 million after Gawker published portions of a sex tape featuring him and the then-wife of his close friend, Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem. After awarding Hogan $115 million in damages, the jury tacked on another $25 million in punitive damages.
The judgment resulted in Gawker Media’s bankruptcy filing and subsequent acquisition by Univision, but the appeal is expected to be heard by a judge in the near future.