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Gawker to pay Hulk Hogan at least $31 million to settle case

Hulk Hogan is getting at least $31 million in cash from Gawker to settle the wrestler's lawsuit against the media company for its publication of a sex tape, according to court documents.

Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, will be getting $31 million from the media company, according to the documents. He will also get a portion of some Gawker media proceeds, including part of its $135 million sale to Univision, which will be split between him and two other defamation lawsuits.

The Hogan case, which resulted in a $140 million judgment against Gawker, and the other two cases were financed by tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. He had been outed as gay nine years ago by the media organization.

"It's a shame the Hogan trial took place without the motives of the plaintiff's backer being known," Gawker founder and former CEO Nick Denton wrote in announcing Wednesday that the settlement with Bollea had been reached.

"If there is a lasting legacy from this experience, it should be a new awareness of the danger of dark money in litigation finance," Denton wrote. "And that's surely in the spirit of the transparency Gawker was founded to promote. As for Peter Thiel himself, he is now for a wider group of people to contemplate."

In a statement to CNBC, Thiel said: "It is a great day for Terry Bollea and a great day for everyone's right to privacy."

Hogan sued Gawker, Denton and writer A.J. Daulerio for posting a sex tape featuring him, citing emotional distress. A Florida jury awarded the celebrity $140 million in damages in June.

"It's less about revenge and more about specific deterrence," Thiel previously told CNBC about his backing of the lawsuit. "I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest."

Denton wrote that while the company was "confident" an appeals court would reduce the multimillion-dollar settlement, ultimately, he, Gawker and Daulerio would not be able to fund a prolonged legal battle. Gawker has also agreed to delete the articles involved in all three lawsuits in question, Denton added.

"For Thiel, an investor in Facebook and Palantir, the cost of this exercise is less than 1 percent of his net worth and a little additional notoriety," Denton wrote. "The other protagonists — including Hulk Hogan and A.J. Daulerio, the author of the Gawker story about him — had much more at stake. That motivated a settlement that allows us all to move on, and focus on activities more productive than endless litigation. Life is short, for most of us."

Gawker.com launched in 2003 and quickly became known for its no-holds barred journalism and snarky commentary, which often got it and its other properties in trouble. Because of the Hogan lawsuit, the media company declared bankruptcy in June.

Two months later, it was acquired by Univision for $135 million. Flagship property Gawker.com shut down operations that month after 14 years, but its websites including Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker and Kotaku still currently publish.

Denton said he was "still convinced that the internet can bring people together in shared understanding rather than just triggering conflict between them." Univision would continue to employ those who had previously worked for Gawker Media, he confirmed. He also said he hoped Daulerio's abilities would "once again be appreciated" and that the stigma over writers Sam Biddle and John Cook, who had also had pending lawsuits, would be lifted.