For the better part of two decades, Gawker Media and its founder and CEO Nick Denton have thrived on crisis.
The company would fire executives, change directions and drop conversation-driving stories more frequently than perhaps any other digital publisher.
But after today’s announcement that the company will be filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and will then be acquired by Ziff Media or someone else, things are very different.
Gawker Media employees tell Recode that while they have been anticipating a sale at some point in the future, today’s news was a shock.
“It was like when your mom pretends the marriage is okay to protect you or whatever,” one Gawker staffer said.
“Everyone is doing [grimace emoji face]” said another via text.
In meetings held over previous weeks, Denton and Gawker Media president Heather Dietrick told employees that still intended to win an appeal in the Hulk Hogan case. After billionaire Peter Thiel disclosed that he was backing Hogan in an attempt to sue Gawker into oblivion, Denton hired a banker and said both internally and publicly that there were “contingency plans” in place, like raising outside cash or exploring a sale.
But the staff wasn’t quite prepared for the bankruptcy announcement or that publisher Ziff Davis was making a bid. Nor had they prepared for the idea that a buyer would want to shutter Gawker.com, as Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shah’s memo suggests he intends to do.
“I think we all thought the company would get sold at some far-off point, like once this ended,” an employee said.
Not all of the staff were caught off-guard. “We all knew the other shoe had to drop at some point,” added one employee. And if Gawker Media was ever going to actually change hands, it needed to definitively beat Hogan or file for bankruptcy.
Publicly, some Gawker Media employees are handling this with characteristic bemusement.
Like this tweet of the Gawker Media office from a Deadspin writer:
all is peaceful in the lush blogforest pic.twitter.com/3TZscydKMH— giri nathan (@girrelevant) June 10, 2016
Or this one from a Gizmodo reporter:
a lot of cool and good tweets right now....here is a dog in a basket pic.twitter.com/S2ih5d8yH2— William Turton (@WilliamTurton) June 10, 2016
Around the time that news of the Gawker Media bankruptcy filing broke, Slack, the workplace communication software of choice for many media and tech companies, reported a widespread user outage.
In a small item on Gawker.com, editor Alex Pareene called the outage “the worst media news of the day."
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.