Billionaire Peter Thiel on Wednesday abandoned his effort to buy the irreverent news website Gawker.com, enabling the Silicon Valley venture capitalist to avoid a possible legal fight over his having secretly funded litigation that led to its demise.
A proposed settlement between Thiel Capital LLC and a liquidator for Gawker Media LLC was filed with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan. It requires a judge’s approval.
Mr. Thiel, who bid for Gawker’s assets on Jan. 10, also agreed to release claims against an eventual buyer and authors of articles on the website, as well as not fund new litigation against Gawker over its archives.
Lawyers for the liquidator, William Holden, said in court papers it would be “time-consuming and costly” to keep investigating Mr. Thiel’s role in Gawker’s demise, and that settling was best for the bankruptcy estate and creditors.
A representative for Mr. Thiel could not immediately be reached for comment.
The accord clears the way for a sale of Gawker’s remaining assets, including domain names and nearly 200,000 archived articles, and end its nearly two-year bankruptcy.
Mr. Thiel had funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker after it published a video showing the former professional wrestler, whose real name is Terry Bollea, in a sexual encounter with the wife of a former friend, radio host Bubba the Love Sponge.
Mr. Bollea won a US$140-million judgment against Gawker in March, 2016, precipitating its bankruptcy filing three months later.
He later settled for US$31-million, and is also entitled to 45 per cent of the proceeds from asset sales, court papers show.
Mr. Thiel said in May, 2016, he helped fund Mr. Bollea’s lawsuit because publishing the video invaded the wrestler’s privacy.
Nine years earlier, Gawker had published an article identifying Mr. Thiel as gay, which he also considered a privacy invasion.
The settlement lets Mr. Thiel keep paying Mr. Bollea’s legal bills.
Mr. Thiel, 50, worth US$2.5-billion, according to Forbes magazine, was also an early investor in Facebook Inc. and co-founded the payment service company PayPal Inc.
Univision Holdings Inc., the Spanish language broadcaster, bought many Gawker assets, including the Deadspin sports website and feminist blog Jezebel, for US$135-million in 2016.