Mar 11, 2016 ยท 5 minutes

Here at Pando we’ve been writing about the institutional awfulness of Gawker since before it was cool to do so.

Back in 2013 I wrote about the organization's hypocrisy in attacking spoilt tech workers, and we’ve been dogged in covering its legal battles -- in particular the lawsuit filed by the company’s army of unpaid interns (which continues to play out in legal filings, even as Gawker pats itself on the back for permitting its existing paid employees to organize under the WGA.)

We’ve also reported on the increasingly close relationship between Gawker and Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media. The companies share office space, have shared senior employees back and forth and now both have ties to Moscow thanks to First Look’s ties with Edward Snowden and his FSB handlers, and Gawker’s investment from Viktor Vekselberg. (For more on Vekselberg and Gawker see Mark Ames’ latest piece here.)

So, yeah, usually we have lots to say about Gawker. And yet, when it comes to the Gawker vs Bollea/Hulk Hogan trial that kicked off this week it’s hard to know what to usefully add.

For one thing, the rest of the media is doing a rare good job when it comes to covering the company’s most recent scandal: Comments by former EIC AJ Daulerio suggesting he’d consider publishing video of a five year old getting raped. Whenever Gawker does something horrible you can almost hear New York reporters murmuring to each other as they decide whether they’re brave enough to take on the Donald Trump of news organizations.

“So, we’re all going to do this? Definitely? You’re not going to back out? We’re really going to call them out?  Ok… Ok… you go first. No, you go first. Ok, let’s do it together, on three…”

But when it comes to a former Gawker top editor snarking child porn jokes during a deposition, the massed ranks of the American press all reached an agreement: That’s a very bad thing to do. Now that seal is broken, it seems safe to say there will be plenty of critical reporting on the Gawker/Hogan trial from now until the verdict.

There’s not much to say about the possible verdict either. Juries are funny fish and a single piece of evidence or testimony can completely change the outcome, justice be damned. If I had to guess the outcome, I’d say the jury finds in favor of Hogan on the first go-around and then the whole circus moves to appeal. But, again, far too early to say.

Really the only aspect of the story that has gone underreported is what might happen after the verdict.

There are three likely verdicts right now: A verdict in favor of Gawker, with Hogan appealing. A verdict in favor of Hogan with Gawker appealing. A verdict in favour of Gawker with no appeal. Only the last one leaves Gawker unfucked. 

With or without an appeal, a decision in favor of Hogan means Denton and Gawker will have to find a large chunk of the sum claimed by Hogan to put in escrow. Even with Gawker’s new oligarch investors, the company doesn’t have anything close to that kind of cash on hand. In one way or another, Gawker will have to put itself up for sale.

Based on what we know about Gawker’s recent investment round -- specifically the investors’ veto on a sale for anything under $100m, it seems likely $100m is the company’s current valuation. It’s conveniently also the amount being demanded by Hogan in damages over the sex tape post.  Any prospective buyer is going to have to agree to that valuation and pony up enough cash to fill the escrow hole. Money they could easily lose if Hogan is ultimately victorious.

Who might be willing to do that, and to take on such a toxic brand as Gawker?

There’s a list, but not a long one.

Vice might be find the audience desirable and the irony delicious. CNN always seems to pop up whenever linkbait is up for sale. Conde Nast bought Reddit for christ’s sake. Vox’s editorial director is Lockhart Steele who is a long-time pal of Nick Denton and was formerly managing editor of Gawker. Yahoo and AOL? Nah and unlikely. The Daily Mail? Grab a pen and a napkin and I’ll bet you can come up with a half dozen more who might be willing to bail Denton out in return for access to all those millennials.

The person I’m most interested in, though, is Pierre Omidyar. Over the last few months, First Look and Gawker have grown closer than ever. Not just geographically, but also ideologically. We know Denton has had dinner with Glenn Greenwald in Brazil; we know Gawker and First Look have collaborated on legal filings, and that the two organizations regularly promote each other’s stories. Gawker’s two most senior editors are former First Look editors. Just as the Hogan trial drew near, Gawker made the surprise announcement that it was dropping celebrity gossip and focussing instead on politics. Denton complained publicly “We were nowhere on the Edward Snowden affair.”

I’ve predicted before that Omidyar might be a likely Gawker investor. Now I’d add Omidyar to the list of people who might outright buy Gawker if the Hogan verdict doesn’t go its way. Omidyar has already said he’s rethinking how he’s planning to spend the $250m budget he set aside for the Intercept and First Look, and has said that he’s more interested in investing in external organizations. With Gawker shifting in a more political direction, and First Look shifting in a more Gawkerly direction, what better time for Omidyar to swoop in and “merge” Gawker and First Look to buy Greenwald and the gang the mainstream audience that has always eluded it.