Gawker.com, flattened by Hulk Hogan, to shut down

Last Updated Aug 18, 2016 3:29 PM EDT

NEW YORK - For Gawker.com, the end is near.

A Gawker report said that Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder, told staffers Thursday that Gawker.com was shutting down next week.

“The near-term plans for Gawker.com’s coverage, as well as the site’s archives, have not yet been finalized,” the report said.  

Univision, the Spanish-language broadcaster, is buying Gawker Media for $135 million in the aftermath of a $140 million judgment against it in the Hulk Hogan invasion-of-privacy case.

A bankruptcy court judge has to approve the sale at a hearing Thursday.

“The real shame is that Gawker gave Hogan a sledgehammer with which (to) pulverize it in state court,” New York University journalism professor Adam Penenberg tweeted. “If you want to ascribe blame, blame Denton.”

Univision outbid Ziff Davis, the owner of tech and gaming sites, in the auction for Gawker. They were the only two bidders, according to a person familiar with the bankruptcy auction. 

Gawker Media’s other blogs include the women-focused Jezebel, tech-oriented Gizmodo and sports site Deadspin. The sites have a total global readership of 90 million, according to the company. 

Hogan, a former professional wrestler whose real name is Terry Bollea, sued over a tape posted by Gawker showing him having sex with a friend’s wife.  

The Gawker case gained additional notoriety when it was revealed Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel had secretly bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit. Thiel was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007.

Thiel’s role paying for the litigation against Gawker raised fears about the power of wealthy people to go after publications they dislike. Gawker argued in the Hogan case that it was protected by the First Amendment.

Denton, a former reporter for the Financial Times, launched Gawker in 2002. It became known for its snarky reportage and commentary on celebrities, popular culture and Silicon Valley. In more recent years it has also focused on politics and other major issues of the day.  

Gawker also became a breeding ground for journalists, some of whom went on to jobs at the sort of establishment media outposts Gawker itself frequently mocked.

“I think in a lot of ways Gawker has helped to define the voice of the internet,” said Josh Benton, the director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, who said he’s been a daily reader “as long as there’s been a Gawker.”

For now, Denton does not plan on going to Univision. He also declared personal bankruptcy as a result of the Hogan case.