Out Billionaire Peter Thiel Bankrupted Gawker. Now He Wants To Buy It

Why would Thiel, who donated $1.2 million to Trump's election campaign, want to buy the site he helped shutter?

After billionaire Peter Thiel was outed in a 2007 Gawker article, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist made it his mission to ruin the site, claiming it “violated my privacy and cashed in on it.” Thiel later bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s sex-tape lawsuit against Gawker that eventually led to the company’s demise in 2016.

“All people deserve respect, and nobody’s sexuality should be made a public fixation,” Thiel wrote in a Times op-ed, blaming Gawker for feeding the public’s “lurid interest in gay life.”

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Now comes word he’s looking to buy the infamously snarky site—but to what end?

When parent company Gawker Media was purchased by Univision in August 2016, the terms of the sale prevented any new articles from being published on Gawker until March 9, 2018. (Other Gawker media sites, like Jezebel and Deadspin, continue to operate.)

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In August 2016, Gawker went up for a court-supervised auction, with a $90 million starting bid from Ziff Davis. Another bid, from former Gawker employees, was abandoned when a Kickstarter campaign failed to meet its goal.

Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, hasn’t revealed why he wants the site he helped shutter, though it would allow him to take down articles about him that are still live.

That seems like a steep price tag to put a genie back in the bottle, but the German born tech whiz has always been a odd one: He donated $1.2 million to Donald Trump’s political campaign and even spoke at the Republican National Convention in 2016. (There were rumors Trump was going to name Thiel to the Supreme Court.)

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Nevertheless, Gawker attorneys have tried to block his bid, according to court papers. In November Gawker’s bankruptcy attorney, Gregg Galardi, argued Thiel was “not a ‘proper’ purchaser” because he could end up getting sued himself.

A winning bid could be announced as soon as this month, but would have to be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court judge. If Thiel’s bid is rejected, he could still request the judge consider it if it’s a competitive offer.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.