Controversial billionaire Peter Thiel might be looking to buy Gawker.com — the news site he helped Hulk Hogan take down

  • BuzzFeed reports that lawyers for influential billionaire Peter Thiel are objecting to him being left out of the sale process for Gawker.com, indicating possible interest from Thiel to bid on the domain and its archive of articles.
  • Peter Thiel financed wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker Media, eventually forcing it into a 2016 bankruptcy and a fire sale to Univision. 
  • If Thiel ends up being allowed to bid on Gawker.com and wins the auction, he would get the site's archives, branding, and social media accounts.

It looks like controversial billionaire Peter Thiel, a Facebook board member and Donald Trump's biggest supporter in Silicon Valley, might be interested in buying Gawker.com — the news site he helped force into bankruptcy.

In October 2017, the The Wall Street Journal reported that Gawker bankruptcy plan administrators were looking to sell the Gawker.com domain, and were searching for buyers. 

The problem, it seems, is that Thiel's lawyers believe he's being unfairly excluded from the bidding process, and that the sale should be paused until the matter is resolved. This is according to a bankruptcy court filing made on Wednesday by Thiel's lawyers, which was reviewed by BuzzFeed News.

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Peter Thiel through the years
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Peter Thiel through the years
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Portrait of Peter Thiel, a tech investor, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, fund manager and co-founder of Paypal, taken at his San Francisco office of the Founder's Fund. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
Portrait of Peter Thiel, a tech investor, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, fund manager and co-founder of Paypal, taken at his San Francisco office of the Founder's Fund. (Photo by Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty Images)
SQUAWK BOX -- Pictured: Peter Thiel, American entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. Thiel also co-founded PayPal with Max Levchin and Elon Musk and served as its CEO; he is pictured here in an interview on September 17, 2014 -- (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 12: Peter Thiel speaks onstage at Peter Thiel: You Are Not A Lottery Ticket during the 2013 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center on March 12, 2013 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Jordan Naylor/Getty Images for SXSW)
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 27: (CHINA OUT) Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during a forum themed on entrepreneurship and investment at China National Convention Center on February 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Peter Thiel, head of Clarium Capital Management LLC and founding investor in PayPal Inc. and Facebook Inc., listens during the LendIt USA 2016 conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Thiel discussed his outlook for the tech industry. Photographer: Noah Berger/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Partner at Founders Fund Peter Thiel participates in a panel discussion at the New York Times 2015 DealBook Conference at the Whitney Museum of American Art on November 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for New York Times)
BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 27: (CHINA OUT) Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc., speaks during a forum themed on entrepreneurship and investment at China National Convention Center on February 27, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, delivers a speech during the evening session on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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This objection would seem to signal that Thiel is interested in bidding on Gawker.com and its assets, which would include its archive of articles, its branding, and its social media accounts. Any potential owner would be free to delete the Gawker.com archives.

Representatives for Thiel and the Gawker bankruptcy plan administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

hulk hogan trialDirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times via Reuters

The case

Hulk Hogan, the wrestler whose real name is Terry Bollea, was awarded $140 million in damages in March 2016 stemming from a Gawker news article published in 2012 that included footage of him having sex. It was later revealed that Thiel had secretly financed the lawsuit and others against Gawker Media.

"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," Thiel, whom Gawker publicly outed as gay in 2007, told The New York Times in May 2016. In a speech, Thiel once described Gawker as a "singular, sociopathic bully."

To protect its assets from being collected by Hogan, Gawker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Its assets were then sold to Univision in a government-ordered auction in August 2016, which bought them for $135 million.

Univision shut down operations of Gawker.com, the company's flagship site, but has continued to run its other properties, which consist of Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku, and Jalopnik. The Gawker archives remain available online.

Read the full BuzzFeed report here>>

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