One day after reports emerged that billionaire Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel helped fund Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, the media company asked a Florida judge if it can investigate the matter.
According to reports, Thiel, who sits on the board of Facebook and help co-found PayPal, bankrolled the former pro-wrestler's lawsuit against Gawker. The suit was filed after the company published excerpts of Hogan's leaked sex tape.
A Florida jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages after a three-week trial.
On Tuesday, Gawker founder Nick Denton said he was suspicious that a Silicon Valley benefactor was funding a number of lawsuits against the company, including Hogan’s.
"In the last 24 hours, news reports have come out about a Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel," Gawker's lawyer Seth Berlin said in a hearing Wednesday, according to a number of reporters in the courtroom. "We believe this potentially relates to our efforts to get relief. We would like a limited amount of leave to get to the bottom of it."
Judge Pamela Campbell refused to look at the news reports, and said she will not rule until Gawker files a motion.
"I don’t like looking at all the stuff that’s published out there," she said. "It’s not healthy."
Hogan's lawyer, Shane Vogt, responded by saying that litigation funding "happens all the time."
Wednesday's hearing was scheduled to address Gawker's motion for a new trial, which Campbell denied. She also refused to reduce the amount of damages.
"We look forward to the legal process continuing and expect to be vindicated," Gawker said in a statement.
"Just days after Gawker Media’s site Gizmodo exposed that Facebook’s news section has suppressed certain points of view, we’ve now learned that a Facebook board member and a major funder of The Committee to Protect Journalists has been secretly funding a legal campaign against our journalists," the statement added. "There are very serious questions about whether Hulk Hogan financially benefitted and this case is far from over."
Mary Ann Georgantopoulos is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mary Ann Georgantopoulos at email@example.com.
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