Peter Thiel Can Avoid Gawker Probe, Promises Not to Buy Assets

(Bloomberg) -- Peter Thiel has agreed not to bid on the assets of bankrupt Gawker Media LLC in exchange for the web publisher’s promise to end an investigation into the tech billionaire.

The accord between Thiel and Gawker’s estate clears an obstacle to the company selling its assets in bankruptcy, according to court papers filed Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Thiel had expressed interest in buying the company’s remaining assets as a way to shut down the investigation, and his involvement could have discouraged other potential bidders, an administrator for the estate said in court papers.

The defunct website was looking into Thiel’s role, as well as his lawyer’s, in funding the lawsuit that led to its demise. Under bankruptcy law, creditors can look into possible litigation that may gain more money for creditors.

Greg Galardi, a lawyer for the remaining Gawker assets, declined to comment on why Thiel’s involvement would have chilled bidding. Anthony Clark, a lawyer for Peter Thiel and Thiel Capital, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Hulk Hogan

The agreement calls for any sale of what’s left of the Gawker estate -- including the name -- to include language that will "expressly exclude" any right to sue Thiel. According to court filings, Thiel also "will not engage, cause any third party to engage, or provide funding to any third party for the purpose of engaging" in a removal of Gawker’s archived web content.

Gawker filed for bankruptcy in 2016, blaming a $140 million invasion-of-privacy lawsuit from former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan that Thiel funded. The company accused Thiel of destroying it in revenge for a 2007 article in which it outed him as gay. They said he did so in part by funding a lawsuit from Hogan that resulted in a financially crippling verdict against the company.

A hearing to seek approval of the agreement is scheduled for May 1.

The bankruptcy is In re Gawker Media LLC, 16-11700, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.