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Gawker.com to shut down as Univision buys other sites

By Jessica DiNapoli

U.S. internet publisher Gawker Media Group Inc said on Thursday that it would shut down its news and gossip website Gawker.com next week after Univision Holdings Inc successfully bid for the internet publisher’s six other websites.

The decision to end Gawker.com’s 14-year run comes two days after Univision (UVN.N) won a bankruptcy auction to acquire Gawker Media for $135 million, outbidding media company Ziff Davis LLC.

Univision’s winning bid for Gawker Media was approved by a U.S. bankruptcy judge earlier on Thursday.

Gawker Media – which also operates popular women’s website Jezebel, tech blog Gizmodo and gaming website Kotaku – said near-term plans for the website’s coverage and archives have not yet been finalised, according to a post on Gawker.com (bit.ly/2bLN6VY)

“Our other sites, including Kotaku, live on, but losing the vibrant Gawker.com hurts,” tweeted Stephen Totilo, editor-in-chief of Kotaku.

Univision, like many other media companies, has been aggressively courting millennial audiences. In 2013, it launched English-language TV network and website Fusion with Disney to target millennials across cultures, and earlier this year it acquired a minority stake in satirical web publisher Onion Inc.

Gawker Media’s assets will be integrated into Fusion Media Group and will help it with its effort to target “young, cross-cultural influencers,” Univision said in a statement Thursday.

Gawker Media sought bankruptcy in June after facing a $140 million court judgment following an invasion of privacy lawsuit from former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, over the publication of excerpts from a sex tape.

Gawker.com, which is known for its snarky celebrity and media industry gossip, had published a one-minute, 41-second edited video in 2012 featuring Hogan having sex with the wife of his then-best friend, radio “shock jock” personality Bubba the Love Sponge.

Hogan’s lawsuit was bankrolled by billionaire investor Peter Thiel, after Gawker.com in 2007 published an article about Thiel’s homosexuality.

In a memo sent to staff on Thursday, Gawker Media Founder Nick Denton said the company was not able to find “a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com” as a result of the “campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers.”

Denton filed for personal bankruptcy this month to also seek protection from the judgment.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal and Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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