Gawker’s Nick Denton Is Set to Exit Bankruptcy
The long-running legal saga between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media founder Nick Denton is now all but done. On Wednesday, the two sides filed a settlement in Manhattan bankruptcy court that will allow Denton to emerge from personal bankruptcy and avoid a $10 million jury award that has been hanging over him since last year.
The settlement is the latest twist in a high profile fight that reached a crescendo last May, when a Florida jury order Gawker and Denton to pay $140 million (including $10 million in punitive damages directed at Denton) for publishing a video tape that showed Hogan having sex with the then-wife of his friend. The ruling forced Gawker Media into bankruptcy and its flagship website, Gawker, to shutter.
Denton himself declared bankruptcy last summer, a measure that ensured Hogan, who real name is Terry Bollea, could not seize his assets while the verdict was under appeal.
Now, thanks to the settlement, Denton is poised to shake the legal threat, and to emerge with $15.4 million. That figure is based on court documents listing the value of Denton’s share of Gawker Media, which was purchased by media giant Univision for $135 million last August.
Gawker Media and Bollea reached a separate settlement for $31 million in November.
As for this week’s settlement, it states Bollea will drop the $10 million punitive damages claim outright. But it also contains a condition that the deal is off if it turns out Denton was involved in the leak of tapes to the National Enquirer and Radar Online in which Bollea makes a series of racist rants. (There is a separate lawsuit involving those leaks, but Denton has already sworn under oath he was not involved in those leaks).
As part of the settlement, Denton has also promised he does not have any copies of the original Hogan sex tape.
“We are pleased that these disputes were resolved and everybody can move forward with their lives,” said Daniel H. Tabak of Cohen & Gresser, counsel to Mr. Bollea, in an email to Fortune.
A lawyer for Denton did not reply to a request for comment.
What About Peter Thiel?
The settlement on Wednesday also coincides with a report in the New York Post that Denton is poised to bury the hatchet with billionaire tech iconoclast, Peter Thiel, who secretly financed the Bollea lawsuit, as well as many other ones against Gawker.
Thiel’s legal vendetta against Gawker, which many see as revenge for the site’s outing him as gay in 2007, alarmed many in the media, who warned Thiel had established a playbook for other wealthy individuals who wished to silence their critics.
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But in the case of Denton, this particular feud appears to be over.
“As far as I’m concerned, my decade-long involvement with Peter Thiel is over. Other journalists can pick up that particular chalice,” Denton told the Post.
The settlement doesn’t include any references to other Gawker-related lawsuits funded by Thiel. But one key passage in the document requires Denton to agree he will refrain from asking anyone tied to Bollea about “litigation financing.” This is significant because Gawker had earlier vowed to use the legal discovery process to look into the lawsuits.
A person familiar with the Bollea litigation confirmed to Fortune that Thiel and Denton are in the process of putting their high-profile fight behind them, and getting on with their lives.
A lawyer for Thiel did not reply to a request for comment.