Gawker’s founder Nick Denton filed for personal bankruptcy Monday after a Florida appeals court refused to give him an emergency order that would block wrestler Hulk Hogan from collecting on a $140 million jury verdict.
The District Court of Appeal in Lakeland, Fla., denied a request by Gawker and Denton to stay a ruling by lower court judge Pamela Campbell — who said Hogan could start collecting on his award immediately.
But declaring bankruptcy will give Denton protection from collectors including Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea. In the filing, Denton says he has assets of $10 to $50 million and liabilities of $100 to $500 million. His debts includes $125 million that he owes to Hogan, an $11.5 million loan that he took out on June 10 from Silicon Valley Bank, a $50,000 loan he took from his 401(k) at Gawker and his Time Warner Cable bill for $120.88.
Denton commented on the development in tweets: “On this bitter day for me, I am consoled by the fact that my colleagues will soon be freed from this tech billionaire’s vendetta.”
He was referring to Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, who funded Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker to get back at Denton for outing him as gay almost a decade ago.
Denton also predicted on Twitter that “Gawker Media Group’s resilient brands and people will thrive under new ownership, when the sale closes in the next few weeks.”
Hogan’s attorney later responded to Denton’s attack on Thiel.
“His bankruptcy has nothing to do with who paid Mr. Bollea’s legal bills and everything to do with Denton’s own choices and accountability. If even one person has been spared the humiliation that Mr. Bollea suffered, this is a victory.”
Campbell’s ruling on paying Hogan had come in a blistering decision in which she accused Denton of misleading the court on how much his own Gawker stock was worth when he offered to post it as collateral. Denton suggested the collateral instead of getting an expensive bond to cover his share of the verdict.
Denton had told the court his stock was worth $81 million, more than enough to cover a $50 million bond, but he did not disclose initially that Gawker intended to file for bankruptcy and had a potential buyer who pegged the value of his stock at roughly $30 million.
“The integrity of the civil litigation process depends on truthful disclosure of facts. Revealing only some of the facts does not constitute truthful disclosure,” she wrote.
Denton issued a statement saying Campbell “got this one wrong” because his initial $81 million estimate was actually Hogan’s. He said he would seek an emergency stay, which the appeals court denied.
Hogan’s attorney David Houston issued a statement saying that “legal maneuvering” by Denton and his lawyers “is nearing an end. It is time for them to take responsibility for what they’ve done.”
The jury’s March verdict was the result of Gawker’s decision to publish a tape on the internet of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife. The former WWF star said it was an invasion of his privacy.
Gawker filed for bankruptcy shortly after the jury’s verdict, but Denton resisted, asking the bankruptcy court to protect him as part of the process. The federal court refused.
Meanwhile, the Florida appellate court said it was rejecting a stay “without prejudice,” meaning that Denton’s and Gawker’s appeal of Campbell’s decision can proceed — just not in rapid fashion.
On Monday afternoon, Denton sent Gawker staff a memo that both blasted Thiel and said the company’s “brands and the business, which we have built together, are in amazingly robust shape.”
“What really lifts my spirits is the way in which we have stood together and just kept on writing, coding, and selling,” he wrote.
With VICTORIA BEKIEMPIS