Iconic wrestler, Hulk Hogan accepted $31 million from Gawker Media Wednesday as settlement for a lawsuit over the wrongful release of a sex tape, the Telegraph is reporting.
The settlement was confirmed in court documents in a case that forced the gossip news site to go into bankruptcy after a court awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million for invasion of privacy and emotional distress.
Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, was captured in grainy camera footage having sex with the wife of a friend. The former wrestler said he had no idea that he was being filmed and did not give Gawker permission to release the material on the Internet.
Nick Denton, owner of Gawker, revealed that that the media company preferred to reach an agreement with Hogan instead of chasing an appeal because the former WWF wrestler’s legal fees were being covered by Peter Thiel.
“After four years of litigation funded by a billionaire with a grudge going back even further, a settlement has been reached.”
Denton believed that the Silicon Valley billionaire was hell-bent on humiliating him even further and his deep-seated resources would have prolonged the legal tussle even further.
“We were confident the appeals court would reduce or eliminate the runway Florida judgment. But all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people with no end in sight.”
Thiel, founder of online payment giant PayPal until the business was sold to eBay and an early investor in Facebook, was encouraged to cover Hogan’s legal fees after Gawker’s sister site, Valleywag, “outed” him out as a homosexual over a decade ago.
Peter Thiel is a tech billionaire, an immigrant, a homosexual + donating over $1m to Trump’s campaign? I’m confused. https://t.co/d67AJgDXfU— Lora Schellenberg (@lschells7) October 17, 2016
In May, the Silicon Valley billionaire denied that it was “less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” when he admitted he was covering Hogan’s legal costs. He added that he was financing a slew of cases against Gawker because they published articles that “ruined people’s lives for no reason.” In a response to the Wednesday settlement, Thiel had said it was a victory for Terry Bollea and everyone else fighting for their right to privacy.
Gawker filed for bankruptcy in June and sold itself and other sister news sites like Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku and Jezebel in August to Spanish-language TV network, Univision for $135 million.
The forced sale brought an end to an era with Nick Denton leaving his position as founder and chief executive. New owners, Univision brought down all articles related to the litigation and shut down Gawker.
Gawker was founded in 2002 and became a beacon for young reporters looking to cut their teeth in unbridled journalism. Denton was famously known to have said that the best stories were told after work in clubs, bars and restaurants. Denton revealed that his onus was to ensure these interesting stories got on his websites, stories that traditional media outlets refrained from telling.
There had been rumblings of a settlement between Gawker and Hulk Hogan during the weeks leading to its acquisition by Univision. However because of Gawker’s continued strut in media circles, still throwing parties and publishing no-holds-barred stories, many were caught off guard.
Former employees expressed disappointment over the settlement, adding that the outcome of the lawsuit went on to show that journalism could be muffled by powerful people with self-centered interests. Tom Scocca, an executive features editor with Gizmodo Media Group criticized the way, the settlement was handled.
“Obviously the way that we ran this, we suffered the maximal possible damage and gained the least from it…a settlement at this point does nothing to repair any of the harm that was done.”
The woman featured in the sex tape revealed that she was also not aware that her husband was taping the sexual encounter. Heather Clem said her husband, radio D J Bubba the Love Sponge had showed her the sex tape weeks after it happened.
She added that the tape was made in 2005, but when the couple divorced in 2012 had made a plea to her ex-husband to destroy the tape. Clem said she was disappointed to find out that her husband was still bandying the video around and showing it to people.
Clem revealed that her husband encouraged her to have sex with other men and had sex with Bollea at his Florida home and a Tennessee hotel. Over 105 million people watched the sex clip with a duration of one minute and 41 seconds.
Lawyers for Hulk Hogan claimed that Gawker profited immensely from the video, making over $15 million as people flocked to the New York website to see the explicit footage. Peter Horan, a digital media expert, disputed this claim saying that the Gawker website made a paltry $11,000 from showing the sex tape.
[Featured Image by Steve Nesius/AP Images]