Yes, Gawker Media has hired a banker.
No, no one's buying Gawker Media anytime soon.
That's because no one wants to buy a lawsuit backed by a billionaire.
For the time being, at least, Gawker is a toxic asset, thanks to Hulk Hogan, Peter Thiel and the $140 million judgment they've won against Nick Denton's company.
So no one's going to buy the publisher until its legal problems go away. In theory, it could settle the case, but Thiel has made it clear he doesn't want a payout from Gawker — he wants to punish Gawker.
So either Gawker wins an appeal, eventually, or it files for bankruptcy protection. Then you can start talking deal.
In the meantime, though, it's reasonable for Denton and crew to hire Mark Patricof of investment bank Houlihan Lokey to work through what Gawker could fetch in either scenario. That's the real-world translation of the latest response from Gawker's PR team, in response to a New York Post story about the company "quietly soliciting bids for the company."
Here's the full statement:
"Everyone take a breath. We’ve had bankers engaged for quite some time given the need for contingency planning around Facebook board member Peter Thiel’s revenge campaign — that’s how the Columbus Nova investment was arranged. We recently engaged Mark Patricof to advise us and that seems to have stirred up some excitement, when the fact is that nothing is new."
But let's be clear: You don't hire bankers because you want to chat — you hire bankers because you want to do a deal. The question is when that happens, and at what price.
Requisite to-be-sure qualifiers: Gawker can engage in other transactions prior to a sale, and may have to.
Sources say Columbus Nova put around $15 million into the company when it invested earlier this year, but fighting a pro wrestler and a billionaire in court is not cheap. And Gawker has significant expenses, including a 15-year lease for its Manhattan headquarters, which it says costs it around $4.9 million a year.
Gawker said it generated a profit of $6.5 million on revenue of $44 million in 2014, and a year ago, it was telling prospective investors that it expected to earn $7 million on sales of $52 million in 2015.
Instead, Gawker says it did $49 million in 2015, and while it hasn't disclosed a profit number, Politico reports, believably, that the company lost money last year.
So Gawker may very well have to look for additional funding just to keep going. Columbus Nova is an obvious choice, since it bought into Gawker when it was clear that the prospect of an initial Hogan win was quite likely. Another option could be a debt financing.
UPDATE: What about price, and buyers? As the Post notes, Univision, which has been bulking up with digital properties like Fusion and The Onion, was previously interested in some kind of deal with Gawker. The Financial Times says Variety owner Penske Media (owned by Gawker target Jay Penske) is interested now.
Today's Post story reported that Gawker has one offer for a very low price of $50 million to $70 million. A more likely interpretation: The offer was for $50 million to $70 million plus another $140 million, to cover the Hogan suit damages -- that is, an enterprise value of around $200 million.
That's much less than Denton might have wanted in the past, but his options may be much more limited now.
Additional reporting by Noah Kulwin.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.