The successful $140 million Hulk Hogan lawsuit against Gawker Media has hit its founder, Nick Denton, especially hard. Not only has Denton had to put his swanky SoHo apartment on the market, but he now has to face a crowd-sourced bounty on his head for information on any felonies he may have committed.
The bounty is posted on leak website WeSearchr, a site that aims to crowd-source funds, or “bounties,” for incriminating information on prominent, powerful people. WeSearchr is a project of journalist Chuck Johnson and former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson.
Much like Peter Thiel, who Gawker outed as gay in 2007, Dickinson has a less than friendly history with Denton’s company. Gawker wrote a piece in 2013 covering Dickinson’s “vile Twitter account,” which resulted in Dickinson’s resignation from Business Insider. Chuck Johnson has also sued Gawker in the past for libel, although the suit was dismissed.
In this case, the bounty is for evidence that Denton committed financial crimes, or evidence of any other type of felony committed within the statute of limitations.
Almost as soon as the bounty was posted, it fulfilled its goal of crowdfunding $25,000, providing a strong monetary incentive for anyone with information on Denton to come forward, release the evidence and collect. Animus against Denton is apparently so high the bounty actually surpassed $25,000 and is now sitting at a tempting $50,330.
A central reason the bounty focuses on financial crimes is the open question of Gawker and Denton’s labyrinth of shell companies incorporated in various jurisdictions. John Cassidy, writing for The New Yorker in 2010, noted that Gawker structures its finances “like an international money-laundering operation” by using entities created in Hungary and the Cayman Islands.
As the WeSearchr bounty states, “It’s suspected by many that Mr. Denton is potentially guilty of any number of serious crimes, especially not fully abided by U.S. tax law with regards to Gawker Media’s overseas earnings. If someone were to prove that or another similar allegation, Mr. Denton might find his living quarters relocated to federal prison.”
Just seven months after former wrestler Hogan filed his suit over invasion of privacy, a new company called Gawker Media Limited was created in May, 2013. Denton’s sister, Eva Denton, was listed as the director. Gawker Media Limited, based in the United Kingdom, holds 26 percent of Gawker Media Group’s ordinary share capital, which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands.
At the time, a Denton representative blew off the idea the company was created to hide assets.
“There’s no need to shield assets because, as legal experts note, [Hogan will] ultimately lose his baseless effort to undo the First Amendment,” the rep said.
Hogan didn’t lose his suit and instead received a $140 million judgment against Gawker, a site that is now experiencing record lows in traffic and desperately trying to transform itself away from base celebrity gossip to more political coverage. Denton is personally responsible for paying $10 million. Once valued at $250 million, Gawker’s price has plummeted. At Code Conference, Denton said Thursday he’s “looking at all possible outcomes” regarding Gawker’s future, which includes potentially selling off the beleaguered company.
Gawker previously expressed absolute outrage that companies like Google structure their corporate affairs such that they pay a very small amount of tax, relative to revenue. Gawker also called out former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for his “tax-dodging” schemes in the Cayman Islands.
WeSearchr features a bounty for information on either criminal acts or adultery committed by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, as well as a bounty for evidence on child exploitation in Hollywood, an issue that has recently returned to the forefront with Elijah Wood’s claim that Hollywood is full of child abusers.
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