Gawker Agrees $31 Million Settlement with Hulk Hogan

Gawker has reached an agreement to pay Hulk Hogan $31 million in settlement of the lawsuit brought against it in connection with the release of a sex tape showing the former professional wrestler.

Court documents showed Wednesday that Gawker has agreed to pay the said amount to end a legal battle that has dragged on for years and also made it to file for bankruptcy.

Hogan, who is formally known as Terry G. Bollea, will also be getting a part of Gawker’s media proceeds, including a portion of the $135 million received when the company sold itself to Univision in August. These proceeds will be shared between his case and another two defamation lawsuits brought against the controversial website.

The wrestler had filed the lawsuit on allegation of privacy invasion after Gawker released a video showing him having sex with the wife of a friend. He got a $140 million judgment in June, forcing the company to fill for bankruptcy.

Following the acquisition by Univision, other contentious pieces of published content that were subjects of litigation were all removed. Gawker.com was shut down, while founder and erstwhile chief executive Nick Denton left.

The Hogan case and the other two defamation suits were later found out to have been sponsored by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, who several years before had been identified as gay by the site.

“After four years of litigation funded by a billionaire with a grudge going back even further, a settlement has been reached,” Denton said in a blog post announcing the Hogan settlement on Wednesday.

He said a possible lasting legacy from the entire litigation experience “should be a new awareness of the danger of dark money in litigation finance.” On Thiel, the Gawker founder said “he is now for a wider group of people to contemplate.”

Denton, who expressed belief that the multimillion-dollar settlement would be cut by an appeals court, noted that it would have been impossible to embark on a prolonged legal battle with the tech entrepreneur, partly because of cost implication.

On his part, Thiel previously explained to CNBC that his backing of lawsuits against Gawker were was not so much about revenge, but more as deterrence.

“I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest,” he said.

The PayPal co-founder released a statement Wednesday saying it was “a great day” for Hogan and people’s right to privacy.

Hogan’s lawyers added Denton and former Gawker.com editor in chief Albert J. Daulerio, the author of the sex tape story, as defendants in the suit. This led the former to file for personal bankruptcy in August.

One of the two other lawsuits also settled by Gawker was filed by Shiva Ayyadurai in connection to an article published in 2012 regarding a claim that email was invented by him, according to the New York Times. The other originated from journalist Ashley Terrill over an article in 2015 that discussed her attempts to uncover information on an ex-Tinder executive.

Court documents showed Ayyadurai will get $750,000, while Terrill will be given $500,000 in settlement.