Gawker files for bankruptcy after Hulk Hogan sex tape case

Bankruptcy protection will allow media company to avoid paying damages.

Hulk Hogan, Gawker, lawsuit,

Image: Evan Agostini / AP/Press Association Images

Gawker Media has filed for bankruptcy protection after it was ordered to pay $140m (€124m) in damages for publishing a sex tape of wrestler Hulk Hogan.

The company released a statement declaring it had reached an agreement to transfer its seven brands Gawker.com, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and Jezebel to publishing group Ziff Davis.

In March, a Florida jury found that Gawker violated Hogan's privacy by publishing the covertly-filmed video of him having sex with his former best friend's wife in 2012.

Gawker failed to warn Hogan, the woman in the video or her husband, DJ Bubba The Love Sponge Clem, who recorded the footage, that it would be published.

The two-week case pitted arguments over a celebrity's right to privacy in the internet age against the freedom of the press, which is protected in the US Constitution.

Events took a turn in May when it was revealed Silicon Valley tycoon Peter Thiel funded Hogan's legal action, and others against Gawker, with whom he has fought for years since it 'outed' him as homosexual.

Thiel said he was working with lawyers to find "victims" of Gawker Media. "It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence," he told the New York Times.

Gawker's filing in federal bankruptcy court in New York lists assets between $50m (€44m) to $100m (€88m), and liabilities between $100m (€88m) and $500m (€440m).

Announcing the news, Gawker founder Nick Denton said in the statement: "We are encouraged by the agreement with Ziff Davis, one of the most rigorously managed and profitable companies in digital media."

The company's media assets would be sold "free and clear of legal liabilities and maximise value for all stakeholders", it added.