Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan today agreed to accept at least USD 31 million from Gawker Media to settle his lawsuit over publication of a sex tape, court documents showed.
The settlement was revealed in court documents in the case which drove the gossip-focused media group into bankruptcy.
The case also divided media and press-freedom advocates after it was revealed that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel had funded Hogan’s case as part of an effort to drive Gawker out of business.
Hogan — whose real name is Terry Bollea — had been awarded USD 140 million by a Florida court for invasion of privacy over publication of the video showing him having sex with a friend’s wife.
The settlement calls for him to be paid USD 31 million plus a share of Gawker assets sold as part of the bankruptcy process, according to documents in the New York bankruptcy court.
Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, said in a blog post the group agreed to the settlement instead of pursuing an appeal, because of Hogan’s deep-pocketed backing from Thiel.
“We were confident the appeals court would reduce or eliminate the runaway Florida judgment,” Denton wrote.
“But all-out legal war with Thiel would have cost too much, and hurt too many people, and there was no end in sight.”
While Gawker has come under fire for its no-holds-barred approach to celebrity coverage, the case raised questions about whether powerful interests can use their resources to silence media for unfavorable coverage.
German-born Thiel was a founder of the online payments firm PayPal, and served as its chief executive before it was sold to eBay. He was also an early investor in Facebook and has been active in venture investing in Silicon Valley.
In May, Thiel acknowledged funding a legal battle against the gossip website that “outed” him as a homosexual.
“It’s less about revenge and more about specific deterrence,” Thiel said in an interview at the time.
Gawker shut its flagship website in August after it agreed to sell most of its assets to Spanish-language television network Univision for USD 135 million.
Some of the former Gawker Media news sites — Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku and Jalopnik — are being operated by Univision.