NEW YORK – Gawker.com, the flagship site of Gawker Media that typified the company’s candid and unapologetic brand of journalism, will be shut down next week.
The development comes days after Univision agreed to buy Gawker Media, the pioneering digital news startup founded by Nick Denton, for $135 million. Univision’s acquisition officially included all seven of Gawker Media’s brands — including Jezebel, Gizmodo and Deadspin, among others.
News of the shutdown was first reported, naturally, on Gawker.com.
The Univision sale was approved Thursday by a judge presiding over the Gawker Media bankruptcy. Shortly after the judge signed off on the deal, Denton sent a memo to staff addressing both Univision’s acquisition and the plan to shutter Gawker.com.
“Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage,” Denton said. “Desirable though the other properties are, we have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com.”
Later in the memo, Denton said the site had been “mothballed, until the smoke clears and a new owner can be found.”
“Gawker.com may, like Spy Magazine in its day, have a second act,” he wrote in the memo.
For now, Denton added, the site “will live on in legend.”
It represents an abrupt end for a site that helped define a snarky tone and style that are now ubiquitous across digital media. The site also served as a springboard for some of the internet’s best-known writers and editors.
But Gawker.com had its critics, many of whom are likely celebrating Thursday’s news. The site’s unsparing coverage prompted several lawsuits, including the one brought by the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan that sent the parent company into bankruptcy.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, filed an invasion of privacy suit against Gawker Media after the namesake site published a portion of his sex tape in 2012. A Florida jury awarded Hogan $140.1 million in damages earlier this year, which motivated both Gawker Media and Denton to file for bankruptcy this summer.
Hogan’s lawsuit was financed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, himself a target of Gawker’s coverage. Thiel, who has acknowledged that he’s bankrolling other lawsuits against Gawker Media, said in a New York Times op-ed earlier this week that he will support Hogan “until his final victory.”
Gawker is appealing the Hogan verdict, but Denton said in his memo that even if the appellate court rules in its favor, “Peter Thiel has already achieved many of his objectives.”
Denton said Thiel’s campaign against Gawker Media made the flagship side “too risky” for Univision or other prospective investors.
“I can understand the caution,” he said.
Denton informed staffers of the site’s fate at a meeting early Thursday afternoon at Gawker’s headquarters in Manhattan, two hours before the hearing to ratify Univision’s acquisition and a day after he confirmed that he would be leaving the company following the sale.
In his memo, Denton said he will “move on to other projects,” but he will stay “out of the news and gossip business.”
But by the time the meeting was called, employees had resigned themselves to the reality that Gawker.com’s days were numbered.
“We’re all operating under the assumption that they’re shutting it down,” one staffer told CNNMoney, just before heading into the meeting.
Employees of Gawker.com have been told they will all have jobs, the staffer said. Those jobs could be at Univision after the sale officially goes through; in the near-term, they will likely be given jobs at other Gawker Media sites.
By Tom Kludt, CNN