This past Wednesday, one of the most notorious journalism lawsuits finally came to an end. Former Gawker CEO Nick Denton agreed to pay $31 million—in addition to a portion of the company’s bankruptcy sale—to former wrestler Hulk Hogan. The agreement brings a final end to the legal drama beginning with Gawker’s publishing a secret sex tape featuring Hogan, whose real name is Terry Gene Bollea. This past March, a Florida Court found Gawker liable for libel to the tune of $115 million.
The broader storyline in this litigation involved Silicon Valley billionaire, and Paypal founder, Peter Theil. Mr. Theil financed Bollea’s legal team throughout the trial and reveled in the jury verdict saying, “it is a great day for [Bollea] and a great day for everyone’s right to privacy.” Thiel’s motivations were not so sincere. More than a decade before this lawsuit, Valleywag, a blog owned by Gawker that has since been shuttered, outed Thiel as a gay man in a post titled, “Peter Thiel is totally gay, people.”
Mr. Denton informed the public of the settlement in a blog post saying that “an all-out legal war with Thiel would have sot too much, and hurt too many people[.]” Many had hoped that a Florida appeals court would reduce or eliminate the unprecedented trial verdict. With this settlement, however, the saga finally comes to a conclusion. As a result of the litigation, Gawker.com was shut down, Gawker media was sold to Univision, and stories about Bollea- along with two others- were removed from the internet. Denton noted in his post, “[Bollea’s] retirement will be comfortable.”Tags: Gawker, Hulk Hogan, Peter Thiel