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At $135M, Univision Wins Bid to Buy Gawker

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 18, 2016 6:57 AM

Univision, the Spanish-language broadcast company, won the auction to buy Gawker Media yesterday, for an offer of $135 million. Univision will take over Gawker after outbidding the digital media company Ziff Davis, by $45 million, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gawker Media, whose network of websites pioneered the gossipy, confessional medium of blogging, declared bankruptcy last month, after the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan won a $140 million invasion of privacy lawsuit against them. The sale should be approved by a bankruptcy judge sometime this week.

Gawker's Strange End

Gawker's fall is one of the more bizarre stories of online media, an industry full of bizarre stories. In 2012, Gawker published a brief video clip of Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, having sex with the wife of his friend and Florida radio host, Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem.

Hogan sued for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress, eventually winning a crippling judgment against the company, leading to its bankruptcy and, now, its sale to Univision. To make things weirder, after Gawker's courtroom loss it was revealed that the Silicon Valley billionaire and gay libertarian Peter Thiel had financed Hogan's lawsuit, out of revenge for Gawker outing him years before.

Univision Moves Beyond Spanish and Beyond T.V.

Univision is the largest Spanish-language T.V. network in the United States, consistently ranking fifth in ratings. But the company has been expanding beyond telenovelas and Spanish-language television altogether. Earlier this year, Univision took over the youth-focused Fusion network, then bought a large stake in the fake news website the Onion and the real news website the Root, a publication founded by Henry Louis gates Jr. and focused on African American news and culture.

Univision's purchase of Gawker fits this pattern well. While Gawker Media's eponymous blog has struggled lately, and not just because of lawsuits, the company's blog network has mastered highly-targeted blogs, the kind of properties Univision has pursued in Fusion and the Root. The Gawker network encompasses the feminist blog Jezebel, for example, as well as Deadspin, for sports fans, and Gizmodo, for gadget nerds.

Gawker's founder and CEO, Nick Denton, praised the sale. "I am pleased that our employees are protected and will continue their work under new ownership -- disentangled from the legal campaign against the company," he said in a statement. "We could not have picked an acquirer more devoted to vibrant journalism."

Univision has so far declined to comment on the sale.

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