Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has filed for personal bankruptcy in the wake of Paypal billionaire Peter Thiel’s proxy war against the news organization and its individual journalists.
Gawker filed for bankruptcy itself in June. “[I]t’s a disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn’t like the coverage,” wrote Denton in a memo to staff on Monday.
Thiel, a Donald Trump supporter, was the clandestine source of funding behind pro wrestler Hulk Hogan’s suit against the site, which published a sex tape featuring Hogan and the wife of a friend. Hogan was awarded $140m in damages and costs by a Florida jury in March.
Thiel has said he has backed other lawsuits brought against Gawker.
The tech billionaire has himself been the frequent subject of Gawker stories. Gawker-owned Valleywag outed Thiel as gay in 2007. Thiel had not tried to hide his sexuality but considered it a private matter. In 2009 he described Valleywag as “the Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaida”, because of its negative coverage of the tech sector.
With writer AJ Daulerio, Denton is jointly liable for the $140m judgment. Denton is also responsible for an additional $10m. Though Gawker is appealing the decision, the nature of Florida law requires the defendants to pay the fine immediately. A Lakeland, Florida judge last week denied an appeal by Denton to stay the judgment until Gawker could marshal its appeal.
“This is a company founded by a journalist, built around a journalistic mission, beholden only to readers,” Denton said in his memo. “We can be proud that we survived and prospered as an independent company for more than a decade, and have a second act ahead of us, under the shelter finally of a larger media company. Gawker endures.”
“I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” Thiel told the New York Times in May. Thiel’s investments in Silicon Valley are many; at the moment, he is reported to be interested in parabiosis, the process of transfusing the blood of younger people into one’s veins of clients in order to prolong life. Jason Camm, chief medical officer at Thiel Capital, contacted a parabiosis startup called Ambrosia according to a report in Inc last year.
Gawker posted additional unpublished excerpts from the Inc interview today.