NEW YORK — Gawker founder Nick Denton filed for personal bankruptcy Monday, months after a Florida jury awarded $140 million to former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in a privacy case revolving around a sex tape posted on Gawker.com.
As a result of the verdict, which is being appealed, Gawker’s parent company has gone into bankruptcy and is up for sale.
Denton’s bankruptcy filing says he owes $125 million to Hogan. Filing for bankruptcy protection helps shield him after other legal efforts to block Hogan from collecting failed.
Denton’s filing says he has $100 million to $500 million in liabilities and that his assets are worth $10 million to $50 million.
Denton tweeted Monday that it was a “bitter day” for him but that New York-based Gawker Media, home to blogs including women’s site Jezebel and the tech-themed Gizmodo as well as the snarky Gawker, would “thrive” under new owners. An auction is scheduled for mid-August.
Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled the lawsuit filed by Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea. That raised concerns about the wealthy using their power to bring down media outlets.
In a memo to Gawker Media staff, Denton wrote that it’s “disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage.” Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website.
Hogan’s attorney David Houston said in a statement that Denton’s 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.”
The case stems from Gawker posting a video of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife. Gawker has argued that its footage was newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment.
Only after Hogan won the jury verdict in March did Thiel’s role come to light.
Publishing company Ziff Davis has bid to buy Gawker Media for $90 million.