Gawker downplayed reports that it is getting ready for a sale in a statement sent to media Thursday. The online media company admitted that it had recently hired investment banker Mark Patricof of Houlihan Lokey, which first had been reported by the New York Post Thursday.
Gawker has been under pressure ever since wrestler Hulk Hogan sued the online media company for publishing a sex tape depicting him. Hogan won his lawsuit in March, with a jury awarding him $140 million in damages. The court that handed down this original verdict refused to reduce those damages Wednesday, setting the stage for what could be a lengthy and costly appeal.
In an unexpected twist, Forbes revealed earlier this week that Hogan’s lawsuit had been secretly funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who was outed as gay by Gawker years ago.
Thiel initially didn’t comment on the matter, but acknowledged in the New York Times late Wednesday that he had in fact been Hogan’s secret benefactor. “It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel told the Times, arguing that he wanted to stop Gawker from harming others in the way the outlet had harmed him.
Thiel, who co-founded Paypal and was an early investor in Facebook, apparently hired a team of lawyers some years ago to look for potential cases against Gawker. The media company is currently facing two other lawsuits from subjects of its reporting, but Thiel didn’t want to comment on whether he is bankrolling these cases as well.
Gawker launched in 2002. The company generated a reported $45 million in revenue in 2014, with profits coming in at $6.7 million. The company was entirely self-funded until taking a minority investment from Russian investment firm Columbus Nova in January.