Gawker exploring a sale after losing Hulk Hogan suit

Last Updated May 26, 2016 3:43 PM EDT

NEW YORK - A costly legal dispute could force Gawker Media to put itself on the auction block.

The embattled online media company has hired an investment banker to explore its options, including a possible sale.

Two months ago, Gawker lost a $140 million invasion-of-privacy suit against Hulk Hogan over a sex tape of the wrestler that the site posted online. During the trial, the company's worth was estimated $83 million. Along with Gawker.com, its sites include Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jezebel and Lifehacker.

Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel has acknowledging bankrolling lawyers to mount cases against Gawker. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, was outed as gay by a Gawker-owned website in 2007, and the Gawker empire has run a number of stories skewering Facebook.

The article about him and other articles about his friends that he said "ruined people's lives for no reason" spurred Thiel to help fund "victims" of Gawker, he told The New York Times.

Gawker said Thursday that it expects to prevail in an appeal of the verdict and that it's always said it is exploring contingency plans. The company would not say when the banker, Mark Patricof of Houlihan Lokey, was hired.

"We recently engaged Mark Patricof to advise us and that seems to have stirred up some excitement, when the fact is that nothing is new," Gawker said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post earlier reported that Gawker was interested in a sale.