Gawker, a rested news website, has settled a $31m lawsuit won by Hulk Hogan, a retired professional wrestler.
The defunct website was sued by Hogan in 2012 after it uploaded a video of the American wrestler having sex with his friend’s wife.
Gawker closed up shop in August, citing bankruptcy, after a jury awarded Hogan $140m over the leaked sex tape.
Hogan’s lawsuit was funded by Peter Thiel, tech billionaire, who had a personal axe to grind with Gawker.
Nick Denton, Gawker founder, in a blog post titled “a hard peace” noted that the “saga is over”.
Denton criticised Thiel for not stating his motivation for funding the lawsuit which all but ensured Gawker’s downfall.
The post read:
“After four years of litigation funded by a billionaire with a grudge going back even further, a settlement has been reached. The saga is over.
“As the most unpalatable part of the deal, three true stories — about Hulk Hogan, the claim by Shiva Ayyadurai that he invented email and the feud between the founders of Tinder — are being removed from the web.
“Yes, we were confident the appeals court would reduce or eliminate the runaway Florida judgment against Gawker, the writer of the Hogan story and myself personally. And we expected to prevail in those other two lawsuits by clients of Charles Harder, the lawyer backed by Peter Thiel.
“But all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people, and there was no end in sight. The Valley billionaire, famously relentless, had committed publicly to support Hulk Hogan beyond the appeal and “until his final victory.” Gawker’s nemesis was not going away.
“For Thiel, an investor in Facebook and Palantir, the cost of this exercise is less than 1% of his net worth and a little additional notoriety. The other protagonists — including Hulk Hogan and A.J. Daulerio, the author of the Gawker story about him — had much more at stake. That motivated a settlement that allows us all to move on, and focus on activities more productive than endless litigation. Life is short, for most of us.
“I will continue to work on topic forums, still convinced that the internet can bring people together in shared understanding rather than just triggering conflict between them. Hulk Hogan’s retirement will be comfortable.
“Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku and Jalopnik — now under the ownership of Univision — can entertain and inform their readers with fewer distractions. The jobs of all journalists and other staff have been preserved by the sale of the business to the
Hispanic media giant. And this settlement will allow staff equity holders to recoup the salary or bonus they gave up.
“Now, I hope A.J. Daulerio’s talents as an editor and writer can once again be appreciated. The shadow over Sam Biddle and John Cook, two other former Gawker journalists targeted by lawsuits, has been removed. I am sure they, and others, will continue to shed light on the new power.
“It’s a shame the Hogan trial took place without the motives of the plaintiff’s backer being known. If there is a lasting legacy from this experience, it should be a new awareness of the danger of dark money in litigation finance.
“And that’s surely in the spirit of the transparency Gawker was founded to promote. As for Peter Thiel himself, he is now for a wider group of people to contemplate.”
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