Thiel Makes a Bid for Gawker.com, a Site He Helped Bankrupt

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Peter Thiel financially backed a 2016 lawsuit against Gawker Media that led to the company’s sale at a bankruptcy auction. The buyer, Univision, abandoned the website, which has remained static since 2016.

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Andrew White for The New York Times

Peter Thiel, the technology billionaire, submitted a bid this week to purchase Gawker.com, the remaining unsold property from the Gawker Media gossip empire that was nearly destroyed in 2016 by a lawsuit largely bankrolled by Mr. Thiel.

If approved, the acquisition could be the last step in a yearslong effort by Mr. Thiel to finish an independent journalism outfit that angered him in 2007 when it reported, without his permission, that he is gay, a fact widely known at the time in Silicon Valley.

Gawker.com has received other offers, and it is not clear if Mr. Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, will prevail. A winning bid is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, if representatives of Gawker.com do not take the site off the market.

“There are going to be multiple factors to consider, which will not be solely economic,” said Will Holden, the administrator of Gawker’s bankruptcy plan.

Mr. Thiel, who has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, according to Forbes, has the means to beat almost any rival bidder. But Mr. Holden said the “ethos” of Gawker — which prided itself on a wry, pirate-ship approach to reporting — would also be considered in determining new ownership of the Gawker name.

Gawker Media went bankrupt in 2016 after a $140 million legal judgment against it in an invasion-of-privacy case brought by the former wrestler Hulk Hogan. Gawker.com had published a black-and-white sex tape of Mr. Hogan, whose real name is Terry G. Bollea; a Florida jury awarded damages to the wrestler after a two-week trial.

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It also emerged that Mr. Thiel had spent about $10 million in secretly backing the lawsuit, a move that many Gawker employees interpreted as an attempt at revenge. Mr. Thiel told The New York Times: “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence. I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest.”

Univision bought Gawker Media at auction in August 2016 for $135 million. The company changed the name of its new asset to Gizmodo Media Group, after the group’s Gizmodo tech blog, and jettisoned the Gawker.com flagship site, which remains online, albeit in a static form, a digital orphan. Raju Narisetti, formerly an executive at News Corporation, took the place of the Gawker Media founder, Nick Denton, as the chief executive officer.

Mr. Thiel’s interest in buying Gawker.com has led to speculation that he might delete the site’s archives, effectively erasing its journalism from the web. A spokesman for the billionaire did not respond to multiple inquiries for comment.

Mr. Holden declined to comment on the dollar amount of Mr. Thiel’s offer. Kevin Lee, the head of a marketing firm, Didit, also submitted a bid for Gawker.com, according to Reuters, which first reported Mr. Thiel’s offer.


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