12 Jan 2018

Billionaire Peter Thiel bids for website Gawker he helped shut down

4:54 pm on 12 January 2018

Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has made an offer for online news outlet Gawker, a site the billionaire helped shutter after backing litigation against it, US media report.

Peter Thiel.

Peter Thiel Photo: AFP or licensors

Gawker, which has been inactive for more than a year, is conducting an auction of its remaining assets including its domain names and nearly 200,000 archived articles.

Most of its assets, including its sister pages Deadspin, a sports site, and Jezebel, a feminist blog, were bought in 2016 for $US135 million by media company Univision Holdings Inc.

Mr Thiel funded former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker after the site published a sex tape featuring Hogan. The former wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, won a $US140 million judgment against the site, and later settled for $US31 million.

In 2007 Gawker published a story about Thiel's homosexuality.

Thiel has not said why he wants Gawker, though the potential acquisition would let him take down stories regarding his personal life that are still available on the website, and remove the scope for further litigation between him and Gawker.

Mr Thiel was granted New Zealand citizenship in 2011 despite only having spent 12 days in the country in the previous five years and having no intention of living here.

He was Facebook's first major investor and a co-founder of online payment service PayPal.

Normally a permanent resident has to spend more than 70 percent of their time in New Zealand over five years - more than 1300 days - before they can apply for citizenship.

Gawker's bankruptcy plan administrator administrator Will Holden has tried to block Mr Thiel's bid, according to court papers.

Multiple bidders have submitted offers for the site, Mr Holden said.

Holden will choose a winner as soon as this month, and then request approval for the deal from a US bankruptcy court judge, the sources told Reuters.

If Holden excludes Mr Thiel's bid, Mr Thiel could ask the judge to consider it if it is higher than rival offers.

The value of Thiel's bid could not be learned, though the sources said Gawker was only now worth a few million dollars.

Kevin Lee, the co-founder and executive chairman of Didit, a marketing firm, said he also submitted a bid, without disclosing its value.

If successful, Mr Lee said, he planned to use the site to raise money for readers' preferred charities.

A group of former Gawker employees this week abandoned their effort to bid, one of the sources said.

They had launched a campaign seeking $US500,000 in donations through fundraising site Kickstarter, but failed to reach their goal and have returned the approximately $US90,000 they did collect.

- Reuters

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