Well according to the Wall Street Journal, Deadspin owner Univision will fight the lawsuit, in which Bell is seeking more than $10 million.
“We believe this lawsuit is without merit and we will contest it vigorously,” David Ford, a spokesman for Univision’s Fusion Media Group told The Wall Street Journal in an email Wednesday. Mr. Ford said Univision also will defend the author of the Deadspin story, freelance journalist Ryan Goldberg, who has been sued individually.
The lawsuit is likely making Univision sweat a bit given that Bell is being represented by Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in the Peter Thiel-funded lawsuit that took down Gawker Media last year.
The Deadspin story in question, written by freelancer Ryan Goldberg, alleges that Pregame.com, which sells betting picks from professional handicappers, profits of customers’ gambling losses through relationships with sportsbooks. Bell’s lawsuit contains a variety of complaints, but the crux is that Goldberg’s story “contains numerous false, fabricated, fictitious, and outright libelous statements about Plaintiffs and their business practices.”
Bell says he asked both Deadspin’s then-parent company Gawker Media and its current parent company Gizmodo Media to remove the story about Pregame.com but that both refused. Univision has deleted three other Deadspin posts since taking over the site—two about MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams’ alleged behavior at a youth baseball game and one about conservative writer Chuck Johnson’s alleged behavior in a college dormitory.
Bell’s complaint cites several examples of Deadspin publishing lewd content and decries the site’s “philosophy and practice is to publish false scandal, for the purpose of profit, knowing that false scandal drives readership, which in turn drives revenue, and without regard to the innocent subjects of their stories whose careers are destroyed in the Process.”
As the Wall Street Journal points out, Bell’s lawsuit could be hindered by the fallout from Gawker Media’s bankruptcy, as Univision bought Gawker under a section of the bankruptcy code that protects buyers. Via WSJ:
Univision could argue that the sale prevents Mr. Bell from moving forward with his lawsuit. Gawker’s chapter 11 plan, approved by a bankruptcy judge in December, also included a liability release designed to protect individual writers and editors from lawsuits for stories they wrote before the sale.
“We believe that the writers are protected by the third-party release and injunction set forth in Gawker’s confirmed chapter 11 plan,” said Dipesh Patel, a Saul Ewing LLP bankruptcy lawyer who represented former Gawker writers.
When reached by Awful Announcing last month, Bell would not say whether Thiel was involved in his lawsuit.