Gawker Media filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Friday amid a years-long legal battle with former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.
In March, a Florida jury awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million in his lawsuit against Gawker Media, finding the media company violated the wrestler's privacy by posting a 90-second clip of him having sex with the wife of his best friend, Bubba the Love Sponge.
Gawker Media said it will appeal in hopes of reducing the judgement.
The company — including its seven media brands and other assets — plans to be put up for auction, with an opening bid of $90 million to $100 million from PC Mag owner Ziff Davis, a source confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
"We are encouraged by the agreement with Ziff Davis, one of the most rigorously managed and profitable companies in digital media," Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said in a statement. "A combination would marry Ziff Davis' strength in e-commerce, licensing and video with GMG's premium media brands."
The sale will be conducted through a bankruptcy court-supervised auction, in which other bidders may offer a higher price, according to a statement. Gawker Media will maintain normal operations during the auction process.
"In the event we become the acquirer, the additions of Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Kotaku would fortify our position in consumer tech and gaming," reads a memo that Vivek Shah sent out to Ziff Davis employees Friday. "With the addition of Jalopnik, Deadspin and Jezebel, we would broaden our position as a lifestyle publisher ... As you can see, there's a tremendous fit between the two organizations, from brands to audience to monetization."
Gawker Media's decision to sell itself came weeks after it was revealed that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was bankrolling Hogan's civil lawsuit.
In a May interview with the New York Times, Thiel said Gawker Media "ruined people's lives for no reason," and that several years ago he began funding a team of lawyers to find and help "victims" of the media company.
Hogan sued Gawker Media in 2012 after it posted a 90-second clip of the professional wrestler having sex. Hogan maintained he did not know he was being filmed and that his privacy had been invaded.
After a three-week trial in Florida, a jury awarded Hogan $115 million in damages and an additional $25 million in punitive damages.
Thiel, through his spokesperson, declined to comment about the bankruptcy.
Messages to Gawker Media were not immediately returned, however Denton posted a defiant tweet after news of the bankruptcy filling hit:
Following the bankruptcy filing, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman defended Gawker Media through the lens of the First Amendment:
The Writer's Guild of America, which represents the editorial employees of Gawker Media, released a statement saying its members are "eager to keep doing that work under the terms we negotiated. We look forward to continuing our positive, productive relationship with Gawker and we are confident the company will emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings stronger than ever."
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Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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