The transformation of Spanish-language media company Univision Communications Inc. took another step last week when the company emerged as the prevailing bidder for renegade news organization Gawker Media at a bankruptcy auction.
If approved by a bankruptcy judge, the deal will bring a suite of digital news offerings into the Univision fold. While the Gawker brand itself will be dropped, Gawker Media’s other assets, including six specialty websites, will be absorbed into Univision. These topic-specific sites include Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Kotaku, and Lifehacker.
The deals follows Univision’s January acquisition of a reported 40 percent stake in comedy site the Onion for what was reported to be less than $200 million.
Ira Kalb, a professor of clinical marketing at USC’s Marshall School of Business, said although Gawker’s flagship site is being dissolved, the company’s infrastructure, database, and staff will help Univision appeal to a covetable millennial audience.
“Gawker reached a very large audience, for better or for worse,” said Kalb.
New York-based Univision is controlled by L.A. media mogul Haim Saban, who is also its chairman. Saban ranked No. 13 on the Business Journal’s list of Wealthiest Angelenos this year, with a net worth of $4.1 billion. Although company representatives didn’t return a request for comment on the sale, the deal fits with Univision’s efforts to bolster its younger audience in recent months.
In addition to the Onion purchase, the company in April bought out Walt Disney Co.’s stake in Fusion, a TV station and website that celebrates “a young, diverse, and inclusive America.”
At Univision, Gawker “staffers will soon be assigned to other editorial roles, either at one of the other six sites or elsewhere within Univision. Near-term plans for Gawker.com’s coverage, as well as the site’s archives, have not yet been finalized,” according to a post published on Gawker’s website.
The reported $135 million bid for Gawker Media came two months after the media company filed for Chapter 11 protection in the wake of a $140 million judgment against it in an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought by celebrity wrestler Hulk Hogan, whose real name is Terry G. Bollea.
A bankruptcy court in New York was expected to rule on Univision’s bid on Aug. 18, though as of press time no determination had been made.
Univision reportedly beat out a $90 million stalking horse bid from Ziff Davis, a New York media business owned by Hollywood’s j2 Global Inc. that operates a range of computer and tech publications, including PC Magazine and AskMen.com.
Although Gawker is no stranger to lawsuits (a recent tally by Politico counted at least 10), the lengthy legal battle with Bollea proved to be the company’s undoing. The former professional wrestler’s sex-tape lawsuit was secretly funded by the deep pockets of PayPal Inc. co-founder and billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel, whom Gawker outed as gay in a 2007 story.
A Florida jury sided with Hogan in March, awarding him $140 million in damages. Gawker is appealing the decision.
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