Marketwatch has named Activision’s Bobby Kotick as one of four runners-up for its 2008 CEO of the Year award.
The respected financial website offers effusive praise for Kotick, along with an amusing tale of how the Activision-Blizzard merger got done:
When [Blizzard CEO] Mike Morhaime first met Kotick, he was looking for a low-key setting to avoid sparking the sort of chatter that often emerges when high-profile business leaders meet in public. Morhaime… chose a steakhouse near his company’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters. But he ended up booking a large banquet room by mistake, leaving the two alone and rather conspicuous for the nearly four hours during which they contemplated the potential of a merger creating a new leader in the video-game business…
"We wanted to keep it low-key, which was pretty hard to do in this huge room with just the two of us there," Morhaime recalled with a laugh.
Marketwatch notes that Kotick has gamer roots, spending his college days playing text adventure Mystery House as well as arcade classic Defender. Kotick told Marketwatch that he gave up gaming due to an "addictive personality."
The most interesting part of the story, however, is how Kotick came to acquire Activision – and how cheaply:
Kotick and partner Brian Kelly bought a small company that handled licensing for Nintendo’s game characters… But Kotick had his eye on making games, so Nintendo pointed him to Activision, which had made the popular game "Pitfall" for Atari but had since changed its name to Mediagenic in an effort to expand into other areas of software development.
Its move ultimately failed, landing Mediagenic in bankruptcy. Kotick and Kelly bought the company in 1990 for less than $500,000…