What happened to Gawker?

In June 2016, Gawker announced a bankruptcy filing related to a lawsuit instigated by retired professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. Two months later, Gawker Media announced its flagship blog would cease operations. After publishing a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend’s wife without permission set the company on a path to bankruptcy. Hogan sued in a Florida court and as a result, Gawker was forced to pay out $140 million in damages. Hogan lawsuit was founded in secret by billionaire Peter Thiel.

BackgroundGawker Media was a digital media company founded by Nick Denton in 2002. The company gained notoriety for its network of websites that focused on celebrity and media gossip, as well as its often controversial and sensationalist reporting. Gawker’s flagship site, Gawker.com, was particularly known for its provocative content and willingness to publish stories that other media outlets might avoid.
Hulk Hogan LawsuitGawker faced a major legal challenge in 2012 when it published a sex tape featuring former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) without his consent. Hogan sued Gawker for invasion of privacy, among other claims. The lawsuit went to trial in 2016, and Hogan was awarded a $140 million judgment against Gawker Media, leading to its bankruptcy and eventual closure. It was revealed that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel had funded Hogan’s lawsuit, as he had a personal vendetta against Gawker for an earlier article outing him as gay.
Bankruptcy and SaleAs a result of the massive judgment awarded to Hulk Hogan, Gawker Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2016. In the bankruptcy auction that followed, Univision Communications acquired Gawker Media’s assets for $135 million in August 2016. However, Univision opted to shut down Gawker.com, effectively ending the publication’s existence. Gawker.com was officially discontinued in August 2016, and its archives remain online as of 2022. Other Gawker Media properties, such as Gizmodo, Jezebel, and Deadspin, continued to operate under Univision’s ownership.
Impact on MediaGawker’s legal battle with Hulk Hogan and its bankruptcy had several significant impacts on the media industry: – Freedom of the Press: The case sparked debates about the limits of freedom of the press and the potential consequences of publishing controversial or invasive content. – Privacy Concerns: It highlighted the importance of respecting individuals’ privacy, even for media outlets reporting on public figures. – Media Ownership: The sale of Gawker Media to Univision underscored the changing landscape of media ownership, as traditional media companies acquired digital media properties. – Media Ethics: The controversy prompted discussions about journalistic ethics, especially in the digital media age.
LegacyGawker’s legacy is a complex one. While the publication was known for its sensationalist and provocative content, it also played a role in shaping the landscape of online media and internet culture. Some have praised its willingness to challenge established norms, while others have criticized it for crossing ethical boundaries. The legal battle with Hulk Hogan and the involvement of Peter Thiel raised questions about the power of wealthy individuals to silence media outlets they disagreed with. Ultimately, Gawker’s closure marked the end of an era in online media, serving as a cautionary tale about the legal risks associated with controversial reporting and the impact of third-party funding in media lawsuits.


Gawker was an American celebrity and media gossip blog founded by Elizabeth Spiers and Nick Denton in 2002.

During its peak in 2015, the website had over 23 million monthly visitors as one of the flagship products of parent company Gawker Media Group.

In June 2016, Gawker announced a bankruptcy filing related to a lawsuit instigated by retired professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Two months later, Gawker Media announced its flagship blog would cease operations. 

Let’s take a look at the rather interesting story of Gawker’s demise.

Hulk Hogan sex tape

Gawker’s fateful decision to publish a video of Hulk Hogan having sex with his best friend’s wife without permission set the company on a path to bankruptcy.

Hogan sued in a Florida court and as a result, Gawker was forced to pay out $140 million in damages. The company did not have the money to meet this commitment, so it was forced to declare immediate bankruptcy.

Perhaps more interesting is that Hogan’s lawsuit was funded in secret by Peter Thiel – a tech billionaire with a long-held grudge against Gawker for accusing him of being homosexual.

Although Thiel played the biggest role in bringing the company to its knees, Gawker had a history of similar incidents with a CNN anchor, Fox News reporter, and New York media executive, among others. 

As a result, the assertion from Hogan’s lawyers that Gawker was an organization without a moral compass was an easy argument to make.

Univision acquisition

Gawker Media Group was acquired by Univision for $135 million in September 2016

Some staff were relocated to other ventures in the group, including Gizmodo, Lifehacker, and feminist site Jezebel.

Ultimately, the Gawker brand was damaged beyond repair because of its sensationalist style and flagrant violation of privacy.

As a result, Univision saw the reinstatement of the Gawker blog as too risky an investment.

What’s more, any controversial story could destroy the lucrative relationship Univision enjoyed with its advertisers.

Gawker.com purchase

In mid-2018, Gawker.com was purchased by Bustle and Elite Daily owner Bryan Goldberg.

Like Thiel, Goldberg had also been the subject of criticism from Gawker over the years but saw the notoriety of the brand as a potential strength.

Several attempts were made in the ensuing years to re-launch the Gawker website, but each has failed for various reasons.

As recently as April 2021, Bustle Media Group announced a Gawker relaunch with former Gawker writer Leah Finnegan instated as editor-in-chief.

Key takeaways:

  • Gawker was an American celebrity and media gossip blog founded in 2002 by Elizabeth Spiers and Nick Denton. In 2015 it boasted 23 million monthly visitors but was shut down the following year after a lawsuit.
  • Gawker’s demise was set in motion when it decided to publicly share an incriminating video of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. The company was unable to raise the $140 million in damages awarded to Hogan and filed for bankruptcy.
  • Gawker was acquired by Univision who continued to run Gawker Media Group’s associated brands. However, Univision believed Gawker.com was too risky to revive in lieu of its relationship with advertisers. Gawker.com was then sold to Bryan Goldberg who has made several aborted attempts to relaunch the site.

Quick Timeline

  • Gawker was an American celebrity and media gossip blog founded in 2002.
  • In 2016, Gawker declared bankruptcy due to a lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan after the website published a sex tape of him without permission.
  • Hulk Hogan was awarded $140 million in damages, leading to Gawker’s bankruptcy filing.
  • The lawsuit was secretly funded by billionaire Peter Thiel, who held a grudge against Gawker for previous articles about him.
  • Univision acquired Gawker Media Group for $135 million in 2016 but decided not to revive the Gawker blog due to its controversial history and potential risks with advertisers.
  • Gawker.com was eventually purchased by Bryan Goldberg, but several attempts to relaunch the website have failed.

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