Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton has a message for billionaire Peter Thiel: You succeeded in bankrupting my company and me personally, stop targeting my journalists.
On Monday, Denton filed for personal bankruptcy protection in the aftermath of a Florida jury's $140 million award to Terry Bollea, also known as Hulk Hogan, in a privacy case, funded by Thiel, over a sex tape posted on Gawker.com.
Since the Hogan verdict and "since Peter Thiel set his sites on the destruction of Gawker.com, this has been sort of inevitable," Denton said Tuesday on CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"You bankrupted the company. You bankrupted me personally. Why are you still going after [our] Sam Biddle, a journalist [and] John Cook, our executive editor? Why are you targeting individual journalists because you're upset with coverage?" said Denton.
"The major creditors consist of three people Hulk Hogan; Shiva Ayyadurai, the man who claimed to have invented email; and Ashley Terrill, a journalist. All are clients of Charles Harder who is the lawyer Peter Thiel is funding," Denton said.
Ayyadurai, the husband of actress Fran Drescher, is seeking $35 million damages, naming as defendants Denton, Biddle and Cook. Terrill is seeking $10 million, naming Biddle and Cook but not Denton.
As a result of the Hogan judgment, which is being appealed, Gawker's parent company has filed for bankruptcy protection and put itself up for sale. Publishing group Ziff Davis has bid to buy Gawker Media for $90 million.
Denton said he's looking to get the best price possible for his company. "I think 15 people have signed confidentiality agreements." An auction will be held later this month.
The Gawker founder's bankruptcy filing said he owes $125 million to Hogan, with overall liabilities of up to $500 million against assets worth between $10 million to $50 million.
Denton tweeted Monday:
Gawker Media Group's resilient brands and people will thrive under new ownership, when the sale closes in the next few weeks.
On this bitter day for me, I am consoled by the fact that my colleagues will soon be freed from this tech billionaire's vendetta.
Thiel's bankrolling of the Hogan suit raised concerns about the wealthy using their power to bring down media outlets. Only after Hogan's victory in March did Thiel's role come to light.
"It would have been easier to have dialogue and an argument about the issues if [Thiel] had been out in public [about funding ligation,] rather than hiding in the shadows," Denton said.
"[Thiel] was waiting 10 years to find a point of vulnerability," Denton continued. "He's a chess player. He boasts of being a great chess player. He just happened to have a few extra pieces on the board."
Thiel did not immediately respond to a CNBC request for comment Tuesday.
Thiel told The New York Times in May his role in litigation against Gawker was "less about revenge and more about specific deterrence ... [from] bullying people, even when there was no connection with the public interest."
The Hogan case stems from Gawker posting a video of the former professional wrestler having sex with a friend's wife. Gawker has argued its footage was newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment.
Gawker's seven properties include tech site Gizmodo and sports site Deadspin.