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Univision wins bid to buy Gawker Media

[SAN FRANCISCO] Univision on Tuesday won the bidding for embattled Gawker Media, which recently filed for bankruptcy after being ordered to pay US$140 million to Hulk Hogan for releasing his sex tape.

Gawker confirmed to AFP that a deal was made to sell the company to the Spanish-language media giant, but did not disclose the price.

US media reports pegged the purchase at US$135 million.

"I am pleased that our employees are protected and will continue their work under new ownership - disentangled from the legal campaign against the company," Gawker founder Nick Denton said in an email to AFP confirming Univision as the top bidder.

"We could not have picked an acquirer more devoted to vibrant journalism." In March, a US jury in Florida ordered that wrestling star Hogan be allowed to collect US$140 million in total compensation after Gawker published a videotape of him having sex with a friend's wife.

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Gawker filed for bankruptcy in June in an attempt to sidestep a shutdown from the judgment.

"For my part, I am proud to have contributed financial support to his case," tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled the Hogan lawsuit, said in an op-ed piece in The New York Times on Monday.

"It is ridiculous to claim that journalism requires indiscriminate access to private people's sex lives." Denton earlier this month filed for personal bankruptcy protection in a bid to stop his assets from being seized because of the judgment.

Denton has slammed what he called a "personal vendetta" and said in a memo to staff that it was "disturbing to live in a world in which a billionaire can bully journalists because he didn't like the coverage."

While Gawker has come under fire for its no-holds-barred approach to celebrity coverage, the case also raised questions about whether powerful interests can use their resources to silence media for unfavorable coverage.

The case drew heightened attention when Thiel, a Silicon Valley titan, acknowledged that he had helped fund the litigation and others against Gawker, a company Thiel has feuded with for years since it "outed" him as gay.

A filing in federal bankruptcy court in New York lists Gawker assets in a range of US$50 million to US$100 million, and liabilities between US$100 million and $500 million.

German-born Thiel was a founder of the online payments firm PayPal, and served as its chief executive before it was sold to eBay. He was also an early investor in Facebook and has been active in venture investing in Silicon Valley.

Univision reportedly outbid US digital media company Ziff Davis for Gawker.


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