Gawker.com to Shut Down in Wake of $140 Million Judgment Over Hulk Hogan Sex Tape

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Gawker.com, the flagship site of Gawker Media that typified the company’s candid and unapologetic brand of journalism, will be shuttered next week.

Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016, in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Credit: John Pendygraft-Pool/Getty Images)
Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016, in St Petersburg, Florida. (Credit: John Pendygraft-Pool/Getty Images)

The development comes days after Univision agreed to buy Gawker Media, the pioneering digital news startup founded by Nick Denton, for $135 million.

The news of the shutdown was first reported on Gawker.com.

It represents an abrupt end for a pioneering site that helped define a snarky tone and style that are now ubiquitous across digital media. The site also served as a springboard for some of the internet’s best-known writers and editors.

But Gawker.com had its critics, many of whom are likely celebrating Thursday’s news. The site’s unsparing coverage prompted several lawsuits, including the one brought by the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan that sent the parent company into bankruptcy.

Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal,  delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, filed an invasion of privacy suit against Gawker Media after the namesake site published a portion of his sex tape in 2012. A Florida jury awarded Hogan $140.1 million in damages earlier this year, which motivated both Gawker Media and Denton to file for bankruptcy this summer.

Hogan’s lawsuit was financed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, himself a target of Gawker’s coverage.

Denton delivered the news to staffers at a meeting early Thursday afternoon at Gawker’s headquarters in Manhattan, two hours before a scheduled hearing to ratify Univision’s acquisition and a day after he confirmed that he would be leaving the company following the sale.

But by the time the meeting was called, employees had resigned themselves to the reality that Gawker.com’s days were numbered.

Nick Denton, founder of Gawker, talks with his legal team before Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016, in St Petersburg, Florida.  (Credit: John Pendygraft-Pool/Getty Images)
Nick Denton, founder of Gawker, talks with his legal team before Terry Bollea, aka Hulk Hogan, testifies in court during his trial against Gawker Media at the Pinellas County Courthouse on March 8, 2016, in St Petersburg, Florida. (Credit: John Pendygraft-Pool/Getty Images)

“We’re all operating under the assumption that they’re shutting it down,” one staffer told CNNMoney, just before heading into the meeting.

Employees of Gawker.com have been told they will all have jobs, the staffer said. Those jobs could be at Univision after the sale officially goes through; in the near-term, they will likely be given jobs at other Gawker Media sites.

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