Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor who financed a successful lawsuit against the news site Gawker, leading to its bankruptcy, has submitted a bid to buy what’s left of the online property, according to a report by Reuters on Thursday.
While the bulk of Gawker Media was purchased by Univision for $135 million in 2016, the flagship website Gawker.com and its archives of posts remain part of a bankruptcy estate. The lawsuit that ultimately forced Gawker to shut down stemmed from an invasion-of-privacy claim by pro wrestler Hulk Hogan over a sex tape of Hogan that Gawker posted in 2012. After the trial had concluded, Thiel, who had been the subject of Gawker stories, revealed that he had spent as much as $10 million to secretly support Hogan’s lawsuit.
In an interview with the New York Times, he said Gawker published articles that were “very painful and paralyzing for people who were targeted,” adding: “I thought it was worth fighting back.”
The ruling against Gawker ignited a debate over the power of wealthy individuals to silence voices critical of them, and highlighted the immense legal risk borne by news outlets already facing a precarious financial reality in the digital age.
It is not clear what Thiel would do with a newly acquired Gawker, if his bid is prevails. It’s also not known how much he bid. A spokesman for Thiel did not respond to a request for comment.
But as J.K. Trotter, Gawker’s former media reporter, has argued, Thiel could purchase the site’s archive, delete every story, and wield copyright law to compel the removal of all other remaining versions online.
Last year, lawyers for Thiel, who was a PayPal co-founder and sits on Facebook’s board, pressed the bankruptcy court to allow Thiel to place a bid for Gawker, sparking speculation that he would seek to erase Gawker’s content for good.
Thiel was named as a member of then president-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and helped orchestrate a tech summit in New York between Trump and top technology executives.
Forbes in 2017 estimated his net worth was $2.6 billion.