Gawker Media and Hulk Hogan are in preliminary talks to settle the $140 million invasion-of-privacy judgment that has plunged the blog network into bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Citing people sources with the matter, the Journal said similar discussions had taken place throughout the legal process, sometimes at the request of a judge, but that they have not yielded any progress.
“We’ve been hearing these rumblings many times over the years when the judge ordered settlement discussions, and you know where we are now despite that,” Gawker said in a statement to WSJ.
Gawker filed for bankruptcy following the judgment, which has also impacted the personal finances of founder Nick Denton, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. He estimates that his liabilities are in the range of just over $100 million to $500 million. Denton’s biggest creditor by far is Hogan, real name Terry Bollea, thanks to the multi-million judgment, which Denton’s filing notes is pending appeal.
In March, a jury awarded Bollea a total of $140 million, after Gawker published portions of a sex tape featuring the wrestler and the then-wife of his close friend, Todd “Bubba the Love Sponge” Clem. After awarding Bollea $115 million in damages, the jury tacked on another $25 million in punitive damages.
Jurors determined that Hogan had suffered emotional distress from the 2012 publication of the sex-tape footage in addition to suffering an invasion of his privacy.
“The Appellate court, in which he has guaranteed victory over Mr. Bollea, is not the puppet he thought it would be,” Bollea attorney David Houston told TheWrap last week. “His bankruptcy has nothing to do with who paid Mr. Bollea’s legal bills, and everything to do with Denton’s own choices and accountability. If even one person has been spared the humiliation that Mr. Bollea suffered, this is a victory.”
In June, Gawker entered into an asset purchase agreement to sell its seven media brands to Ziff Davis. The sale will be conducted via bankruptcy court auction later this month, during which other prospective buyers can bid up the price for the company.
Gawker did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for additional comment.