Gawker CEO Nick Denton Says Peter Thiel Won the Battle but Not the War

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By Matthew J. Belvedere, CNBC

Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton said Wednesday that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel 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 on "Squawk Box," expressing confidence that Gawker would prevail in its appeal of the $140 million judgment in a lawsuit brought by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan over a sex tape.

Last month, it was revealed that Thiel, stung by a 2007 Gawker story outing him as gay, was bankrolling Hogan's ligation to the tune of $10 million.

Known for controversial reporting, Gawker is getting a $22 million lifeline from private equity giant Cerberus Capital Management to pay the bills during its bankruptcy and pending sale.

Gawker has received a $90 million offer from media firm Ziff Davis, 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 millionthat 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.

Facing mounting legal bills, Gawker filed for bankruptcy and put itself up for sale on Friday.

Gawker expects its appeal to be heard in "nine months to a year," Denton said.

"If the 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."

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Denton, appearing on "Squawk Box" in May, said Thiel's involvement in the lawsuit and others against Gawker shows "the power of the billionaire class."

Denton said he wants the facts to come to light on the suits against Gawker, which he said were "designed to drain the site."

Gawker properties include tech site Gizmodo, which reported last month on interviews with former Facebook workers who said the social network "routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers" in its trending section.

Facebook denied bias. But after meeting with several leading conservatives and addressing concerns from Sen. John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Facebook said it would tweak the process.