It is the end of an era for a certain type of online journalism, as Gawker.com will officially down next week after 14 years, the site reported Thursday.
Univision Communications Inc., Gawker’s parent company, purchased ownership rights for the site at a whopping $135 million at a bankruptcy auction on Tuesday. Univision plans on adding Gawker Media's other websites—Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel and Kotaku—into its Fusion Media Group, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Gawker has been no stranger to lawsuits and controversy over the years, but a story published in 2012 about a scandalous sex tape featuring former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan led to a legal battle that pushed the company into bankruptcy. Hogan filed a lawsuit against the company this year and won $140 million, and Gawker filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection shortly after.
Hogan’s lawsuit was secretly bankrolled by Peter Thiel, the billionaire founder of PayPal. Gawker outed Thiel as gay in 2007, and he paid $10 million for Hogan's lawsuit in an attempt to stop what he felt were Gawker's unacceptable ethical violations. Many have pointed out that Thiel’s success in shutting down Gawker through lawsuits is a serious threat to the free press.
In a memo to staff sent out on Thursday, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton announced that he would be leaving the company and though Gawker Media will remain intact, Gawker.com will no longer be in operation, according to the Huffington Post. The site’s controversial past made it a hard sell to potential buyers, Denton explained.
“Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage,” Denton said in the memo. “Desirable though the other properties are, we have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com. The campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers has made it too risky. I can understand the caution.”
Univision’s acquisition of Gawker may be its first move towards becoming a more digital company and growing its millennial audience, according to the Wall Street Journal.