Now that Hulk Hogan has landed the legdrop and pinned Gawker Media for the three-count, what will the blog network do? Gawker now owes the Hulkster around $140 million dollars, which is well beyond what they can possibly afford. Is Gawker going to shut down to pay Hulk Hogan? It’s a lot more likely than you may think.
The Dirty Details
The trial between Hogan—whose real name is Terry Bollea—and Gawker began when the latter posted a sex tape featuring Hogan and Heather Clem, then the wife of his friend Todd Clem, known as Florida radio personality Bubba the Love Sponge. While the sex was at both the Clems’ request and Hogan claimed he knew about their “alternative lifestyle,” the sports entertainer was not aware that he was being filmed. The recording reportedly found its way into the hands of one of Todd Clem’s employees, who, upset with Clem, sold it to Gawker.
The site would post a one-minute clip of the video, which they left up despite numerous cease-and-desist letters from Hogan and a judge’s order to take it down (they even wrote a separate article about their refusal). This led to Hogan taking the matter to court. In addition, Hogan was fired from WWE after a separate clip from the tape of Hogan making racist comments found its way online, meaning the video cost him his privacy and his job.
And now, everyone at Gawker may be joining Hulk Hogan in the unemployment line. Hogan won the case, and though he only asked for $100 million, he ended up receiving $115 million: $55 million in compensatory damages and $60 million for emotional distress. In addition, the jury has given Hogan another $25 million in punitive damages: $15 million comes from Gawker itself while CEO Nick Denton is personally liable for $10 million and A.J. Daulerio, a former editor-in-chief who was the one who posted the sex tape clip, will have to give Hogan $100,000 out of his own pocket.
The Inevitable Conclusion
Denton announced intent to appeal the case, but that may not be in the cards. That’s because the State of Florida—Hogan’s home state and where the trial was held—has a rule that the losing party must post a bond for the full amount of damages; though capped at $50 million, that’s still a lot. And that’s assuming the company can afford even that; Gawker’s net worth is valued at $250 million, but that full amount isn’t available to use though the jury was told the punitive damages, at least, couldn’t be enough to cause bankruptcy. Gawker’s gross revenue for 2015 was $48.7 million.
In addition, the success of an appeal in the first place is questionable given Gawker’s incredibly poor conduct and presentation before and during the trial. Besides refusing the judge’s orders to take the video down, which started this whole trial in the first place, Gawker repeatedly did and said things that implied they weren’t taking the case seriously and thought they would ride the “freedom of speech” defense to victory.
Such actions that likely swayed the jury included a Gawker lawyer comparing the case to the Holocaust and Daulerio, during his deposition, saying a sex tape featuring a child would be newsworthy; he later claimed he was joking, then changed his answer to say he was being sarcastic; however, by then the damage from his comment, as well as from his general attitude on the stand, had been done. With courtroom behavior such as this, it’s no wonder that Hulkamania ran wild on Gawker Media—and no wonder the network of blogs may have to soon shuts its virtual doors.