Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton said his goodbyes to Gawker.com in a post made to the blog tonight, using the moment to complain further about Hulk Hogan’s Peter Thiel-funded lawsuit which rendered him and his company bankrupt.
“Peter Thiel has achieved his objectives. His proxy, Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, has a claim on the company and my personal assets after winning a $140 million trial court judgement in his Florida privacy case” cried Denton during his lengthy parting piece.
Even if that decision is reversed or reduced on appeal, it is too late for Gawker itself. Its former editor, who wrote the story about Hogan, has a $230 million hold on his checking account. The flagship site, a magnet for most of the lawsuits marshaled by Peter Thiel’s lawyer, has for most media companies become simply too dangerous to own.
Peter Thiel has gotten away with what would otherwise be viewed as an act of petty revenge by reframing the debate on his terms. Having spent years on a secret scheme to punish Gawker’s parent company and writers for all manner of stories, Thiel has now cast himself as a billionaire privacy advocate, helping others whose intimate lives have been exposed by the press. It is canny positioning against a site that touted the salutary effects of gossip and an organization that practiced radical transparency.
As former Gawker developer Dustin Curtis says, “Though I find the result abhorrent, this is one of the most beautiful checkmates of all time by Peter Thiel.”
Most of Denton’s parting piece focuses on the bitterness he feels for Thiel and Hogan, whose lives were both seriously affected by Gawker. Denton makes sure to mention that Thiel is a Trump supporter. Of course, Thiel merely funded Hogan’s lawsuit — the outcome was always in the jury’s hands, and the jury decided that Gawker was guilty.
“Many liberals and journalists are alarmed by the ease with which a rich and powerful man—a Trump supporter—can use the legal system to destroy an outlet that criticized him and his friends” writes Denton. “To my mind, Gawker’s ultimate fate was predestined.”
With the outpouring of sympathy from other journalists for Denton and the collapse of his media empire, it’s easy to forget that not only did his company post footage from a private sex tape without permission, damaging Hulk Hogan’s reputation in the process, but they also publicly bragged about defying a judge’s orders to remove the footage.
Denton mentions Thiel’s name twenty-eight times and Hogan’s name seventeen times during the piece.