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Gawker CEO: We're facing heat over our Trump hair article

Donald Trump
Brian Snyder | Reuters
Donald Trump

Gawker Media CEO Nick Denton told CNBC on Wednesday he's received a letter from Hulk Hogan's lawyer on behalf of a hair restoration expert concerning an article about Donald Trump's hairdo.

The article questioning the authenticity of the presumptive GOP presidential nominee's hair was posted last month, around the same time Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, stung by a 2007 Gawker story outing him as gay, revealed he bankrolled Hogan's lawsuit over a sex tape. Under the headline: Is Donald Trump's Hair a $60,000 Weave? — Gawker, known for its controversial reporting, speculated on whether the Ivari International clinic was behind its installation and upkeep.

"It's a letter not a lawsuit at this point. It's a complaint on behalf of the hair restoration expert who's actually in Donald Trump's building," Denton said on "Squawk Box." "It was sort of a deep, speculative investigation into the connections between them."

The New York Times reports it's not clear whether Thiel, a pledged delegate for Trump at the upcoming 2016 Republican convention, is behind the letter. Thiel's representatives did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment.

Denton also told CNBC Thiel's nearly decade-long grudge against Gawker has succeeded in damaging the online media company and ending its existence as an independent company.

"[But Thiel] has only won this particular battle," Denton said, expressing confidence that Gawker would prevail in its appeal of the $140 million Hogan judgment. Denton expects the appeal to be heard in "nine months to a year."

Facing mounting legal bills in the meantime, Gawker filed for bankruptcy and put itself up for sale on Friday. Media firm Ziff Davis has put in a $90 million offer, setting the floor for an opening bid in a court-supervised auction that's expected to take place at the end of July.

Denton called the Ziff offer "depressed," compared with $343 million that Business Insider sold for last year to global media conglomerate Axel Springer. Denton said his goal is to sell Gawker and its properties to the best buyer.

"If the [Hogan] verdict stands, then I won't make anything [on the sale] and nor will any of our shareholders of Gawker Media," he continued. "If the appeals court decides to overturn the decision, as we expect, then I think we'll do fine."

To pay the bills during the bankruptcy process and pending sale, Gawker is getting a $22 million lifeline from private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management.

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— Reuters contributed to this report.