Gawker’s Denton Wins Short Halt to $140 Million Hogan Award

  • Media executive faces bankruptcy without temporary halt
  • Denton lost invasion-of-privacy suit to wrestler Hulk Hogan

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton, seeking to stave off personal bankruptcy, won a reprieve of as long as 30 days from the $140 million jury verdict he lost in Hulk Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit.

A Florida appeals court Wednesday halted enforcement of the verdict for either 30 days or until the trial judge rules on Denton’s request to stop payment of any judgment while the appeal goes forward. 

Gawker itself filed for Chapter 11 protection last month, halting enforcement against the online media company. The judge in that case refused to extend court protection to Denton and a former Gawker editor, who are also liable for the damages award, saying they must file their own bankruptcies.

In court papers Monday, Denton and the former editor, A.J. Daulerio, who published video excerpts of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife, argued that they shouldn’t be forced to pay Hogan until after all their appeals are exhausted.

Hogan, whose court case is being funded by tech mogul Peter Thiel, had opposed granting a temporary halt.

While protected from Hogan in bankruptcy, Gawker plans to sell itself at an August auction. Ziff Davis has agreed to open the auction with a $90 million bid and to keep Denton on if it wins. Under bankruptcy court rules, Hogan’s judgment would be treated as an unsecured claim against Gawker, meaning he stands to collect a share of the sale proceeds only after more senior creditors are paid in full.

According to Gawker, Thiel has had it in for the company since 2007, when it outed him as gay. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, has since publicly acknowledged that he’s gay and called Gawker’s now-defunct blog Valleywag the “Silicon Valley equivalent of al-Qaeda.” In a New York Times interview, he described his backing of Hogan and other litigants as a philanthropic way to help those who can’t afford to defend themselves against press attacks and intrusions.

The case is In re Gawker Media LLC, 16-11700, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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