Like just about every other publication, we received an ominous e-mail yesterday about the sale of LTH Forum. It was sent by Peter Daane — a founding member of the influential online message board — and he explained that he had lent a “substantial mount of money” to another founding member and owner of the site’s domain name, Gary Wiviott. When Wiviott didn’t repay the loan, Daane sued him. According to the e-mail, Daane is now spearheading the sale of the site “for as much as possible so that Gary’s debt to me can be repaid.” Other publications have gone into the gritty details of this sad story, but we wanted to explore what will actually happen to the site. LTH is home to some of the best discussion about the Chicago food scene, and its “Great Neighborhood Restaurants” list is an essential guide to dining in the city. We reached out to Wiviott and also two to other founding members, David Hammond and Mike Gebert, to see what the sale actually means for the site, and whether it has a future.
All three were uncertain of exactly what would happen.
Hammond, who has also been writing for the Sun Times as the Food Detective, admits that “anyone can buy it,” so nothing is absolutely definite. “What’s most important to remember,” he told us, “is that the community gives LTHForum.com its power and authority, so in a sense it doesn’t matter too much who owns the site.” In fact, he thinks that the site can survive regardless of who owns it: “The leadership of LTH could go down in a flaming food truck tonight, and tomorrow, after the initial posts of mourning, the site would be back, and people would be talking about the best taco place in Bridgeport or the best naan on Devon.”
Mike Gebert, who has been freelancing for years and recently won a James Beard Award, has been angered by the direction of the site over the past few years. He wrote that LTH Forum was initially founded by a group “dedicated to creating an interesting, welcoming and democratic food site,” but “over time, it moved away from that vision and toward feeding one or two egos.”
He further explained: “I saw it headed to this week’s train wreck four years ago, and strongly advised against nearly everything that has happened since that led to this day.” He is very unsure about its future, but he did admit that LTH has “its moments still, thanks to the users, many of whom remain my friends.”
As for Gary Wiviott, he is understandably unsure about what is next. Wiviott told us, “I would like to stay involved and see the site remain strong.” Unfortunately, that just “depends on what happens to LTH Forum.” He admits that it’s not a “not a rock solid answer,” but it’s also not a “rock solid situation.”