Report: Vivendi Considered Firing Activision CEO Bobby Kotick

July 16, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

According to a Bloomberg report there was a serious discussion by Vivendi executives whether they should fire Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. That discussion happened last May while they were discussing selling Vivendi's stake back to Activision.

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Vivendi Selling $866 Million in Activision Blizzard Stock

May 22, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

French media conglomerate Vivendi announced this morning its plans to sell half of its stake in video game publisher Activision Blizzard. This latest sale of holdings in the company will likely be used to pay down debts and focus its business on its music and media properties. Last month the company agreed to sell its SFR mobile phone unit in France to Altice and a controlling stake in African telecommunications company Maroc Telecom to Etisalat last year.

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Delaware Court Rules That Vivendi Can't Invoke French Law in Activision Shareholders Lawsuit

February 26, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

A Delaware Court has ruled that Vivendi cannot invoke a French law to avoid discovery in a lawsuit filed by shareholders over its stock deal with Activision. Activision announced on July 26, 2013, that Vivendi had agreed to sell back 85 percent of its majority stake for $8.17 billion. Vivendi owned 61 percent of Activision stock but allegedly owed more than $17 billion to its creditors, and desperately needed cash.

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Report: Activision CEO Threatened to Quit if Board Didn't Support His Vivendi Stock Buyback Plan

December 5, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

An interesting report in the LA Business Journal (citing a Bloomberg report) says that Activision Blizzard CEO Robert Kotick allegedly threatened to quit as Activision Blizzard’s top executive if the board didn't accept his buyout plan to re-secure Vivendi’s stake in the company. This little morsel of information - which Activision Blizzard has not publicly commented on as of this writing - comes from claims in a shareholder lawsuit over the deal.

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Activision Blizzard Completes Deal with Vivendi, Takes Control of Stock

October 14, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

Activision Blizzard has closed a deal to buy back shares from France-based conglomerate Vivendi a day after a Delaware Supreme Court judge lifted an injunction on the plan put on the deal by a lower court judge in response to several shareholder lawsuits.

With the deal complete Activision Blizzard now has a controlling interest in itself. Activision Blizzard now owns $5.83 billion of stock, with CEO Bobby Kotick and his partners owning $2.34 billion. Vivendi's stake has been reduced significantly to 12 percent.

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Activision Blizzard Stock Repurchase Plan Gets Greenlight by Delaware Supreme Court

October 11, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

The Delaware Supreme Court unanimously reversed a lower court ruling that put a temporary injunction on Activision Blizzard‘s plan to buy back most of Vivendi’s stake in the video game maker for $8.2 billion.

With the injunction lifted, Activision Blizzard can move forward with the plan. In a hearing on Wednesday, lawyers for Activision Blizzard argued that the provision was inapplicable, since it applied only to a merger, while the company’s plan was a stock repurchase.

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Delaware Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Against Activision Blizzard-Vivendi Deal

September 19, 2013 - GamePolitics Staff

A Delaware Chancery Court has issued a preliminary injunction against a plan that would see Activision Blizzard separate itself from parent company Vivendi with a stock repurchase program. The court blocked the deal after multiple lawsuits were filed by shareholders seeking to block the deal. The transaction will be halted until its terms are modified on appeal or the transaction is approved by a shareholder vote of "non-Vivendi stockholders."

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Shareholder Sues Activision Blizzard Execs Over Vivendi Buy Back Deal

August 2, 2013 -

Activision Blizzard shareholder Todd Miller filed a derivative lawsuit on Thursday against the company and other parties associated with an $8.17 billion deal to buy back a controlling interest from major stakeholder Vivendi. In his lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Miller claims that the deal to buy back stock from Vivendi gives "insiders" a windfall of more than $600 million on the discounted sale of stock from Vivendi, while Activision Blizzard shareholders get no enrichment from the deal.

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BMO Capital Markets Weighs in on Activision Blizzard-Vivendi Buyback Plan

July 26, 2013 -

BMO Capital Markets analyst Edward S. Williams says that Activision Blizzard's plan to buy back its shares from Vivendi is a good thing and has reiterated his firm's rating of "outperform." Last night Activision Blizzard announced that - with its own cash on hand and investments from outside sources - it would buy back a total of 601 million shares from Vivendi to the tune of $8.2 billion.

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CEO Robert Kotick Leads $8.2 Billion Activision Blizzard Buyout

July 26, 2013 -

Activision Blizzard announced that it will purchase approximately 601 million shares from Vivendi to the tune of $8.2 billion with the help of outside investments. There had been some talk that Vivendi would force Activision into giving Vivendi a special dividend of $2 - $3 billion to raise funds for paying down debt. Vivendi currently holds a controlling stake in the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft publishers, but this plan would make Activision an independent entity again.

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Report: Vivendi May Make Activision Blizzard Pay Special Dividend

July 22, 2013 -

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Vivendi may force Activision Blizzard to pay a special dividend that would give the company $2 - $3 billion to help it pay down some of its debt. The company's board will discuss the move at a regular meeting on Monday and may seek Activison's board members to approve it at a meeting later this week, WSJ claims in its report. Since six of eleven Activision board members are from the Vivendi group or its units such a vote would likely be approved.

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Report: Activision Blizzard Interested in Buying Back Some of Vivendi's Holdings in Company

May 15, 2013 -

Activision Blizzard majority stakeholder Vivendi is still interested in selling off the 61.2 percent it owns in the company but according to the Wall Street Journal, Activision Blizzard would like to buy back some of it. The WSJ reports that Activision Blizzard management is interested in using some of the cash reserves it has managed to stockpile to buy back at least some of what Vivendi owns. This is probably a good idea since Vivendi has been looking to offload its stake in the company since last year.

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Vivendi Still Considering Sale of Activision Blizzard Holdings, Says Source

September 7, 2012 -

According to a report on C&VG, Vivendi has not ruled out a sale of its majority stake in Activision Blizzard.

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Report: Vivendi Taps Goldman Sachs and Barclays To Sell Off Activision Blizzard Holdings

July 19, 2012 -

According to a Wall Street Journal report Vivendi has tapped two investment banks to help it sell off the assets of Activision Blizzard. Vivendi wants to unload its majority stake in the company responsible for Call of Duty and World of Warcraft, which WSJ estimates is worth $8.1 billion.

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Pachter: Vivendi Probably Won't Sell Activision Blizzard

July 3, 2012 -

Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter has said in a note to investors (PDF) that it is unlikely that Vivendi would sell off Activision Blizzard.

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Vivendi Strongly Denies Company Break-Up Rumors

April 27, 2012 -

Today Vivendi strongly denied a report from Bloomberg on Wednesday that the company was considering a major reorganization of its various properties. Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the Paris-based conglomerate was discussing the possibility of splitting the company into two parts. One part would include its Universal Music Group and video game company Activision Blizzard. Bloomberg reported this based on sources "with knowledge of the matter."

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Vivendi Sells 3 Percent of Stock in Activision Blizzard

November 16, 2011 -

Vivendi revealed that it has sold 35 million shares of its Activision Blizzard holdings, reducing its stake by right around 3 percent to 60 percent. Vivendi did not disclose what it sold the block of shares for. A Reuters estimate based on the opening price on Tuesday morning of $12.18 per share puts sale at around $426 million USD.

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With Vivendi Merger Complete, Will Activision Make a Run at Take-Two?

July 10, 2008 -

The New York Times' Deal Book blog speculates today that Activision Blizzard may be eyeing an acquisition of Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive.

Electronic Arts, of course, has been chasing T2 for most of 2008 and has a tender offer outstanding. EA's problem, however, is that T2 shareholders just aren't jumping on board so far.

Analyst Mike Hickey of Janco Partners told the Deal Book:

We absolutely believe Activision will take a look at Take-Two. If a competitor is for sale, you take a look, and if EA is your real rival, why wouldn't you stir the pot a little bit?

However, UBS Securities analyst Ben Schachter pooh-pooh any such deal:

It is highly unlikely that Activision would try to outbid EA. They have enough on their plate at the moment.

The oft-quoted Michael Pachter of Wedbush-Morgan had his own opinion:

There are only three players involved — EA, the FTC and the arbs. Is EA likely to withdraw or lower their offer? No, because they want Take-Two. The odds of the FTC not approving the deal on market concentration is virtually zero. And if the arbs want to sell the stock, they'll sell the stock — they don't care what [T2 chairman] Strauss Zelnick thinks the stock is worth.

 

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WaPo: Activision Blizzard Now Official

July 9, 2008 -

Mike Musgrove of the Washington Post reports that the Activision-Vivendi merger is now official, following a vote by 92% of Activision shareholders to approve the deal.

The new company will be known as Activision Blizzard. We hope to see a new logo unveiled, as opposed to mock-ups, like the one at left, which can found around the web.

Referring to EA's now-former status as the biggest kid on the game industry block, Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter told Musgrove:

It's good to have a duopoly instead of a monopoly. This just makes the industry that much more interesting.

 

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Judge Works WoW References into Activision Merger Court Order

July 3, 2008 -

An attempt to block Activision's merger with Vivendi has ended with a ruling issued by William B. Chandler III (left), chief judge of the Delaware Court of Chancery.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the judge has apparently taken notice of what World of Warcraft - one of the leading assets in the merger - is all about.

In denying a municipal pension plan's request for a preliminary injunction which would have put the Activision-Vivendi marriage on hold, Judge Chandler wrote:

In some ways, perhaps, the world of Mergers and Acquisitions is a massively multiplayer role playing game as well. Like in World of Warcraft... the participants in the M&A field take on certain roles, interact in their own community, hone specialized skills, and even develop a unique, somewhat curious vernacular.

 

One particular quest in the world of M&A is disclosure litigation. In the instance of disclosure litigation presently pending before this Court, the world of M&A meets the World of Warcraft.

 

In the role-playing game that is this disclosure litigation, both sides have played their respective roles well. Like any game, this one has rules, and the most essential rule of disclosure is materiality. Because the plaintiff could not establish the materiality of its final three disclosure claims, the motion for a preliminary injunction is denied. . . .GAME OVER.

GP: Very cool, indeed, your honor. Read the full decision here (31-page pdf).

Washington Post Probes ESA Member Defections

June 8, 2008 -

Reporter Mike Musgrove digs into the ESA's recent difficulties in today's Washington Post.

Musgrove brings an interesting perspective to the piece, given that he wrote one of the early profiles of embattled ESA CEO Michael Gallagher last September. In response to Musgrove's questions about losing Activision, Vivendi, LucasArts and id as member companies, Gallagher said:

There are hundreds of trade associations in Washington and virtually all feature member turnover and the ESA is no exception.

Increased membership fees due to the scaling back of E3 may be part of the problem, Musgrove reports, quoting Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter:

These [publishers] got rid of E3 so they wouldn't be spending money, and they suddenly find they are spending the same amount of money, but without the spectacle of E3. I can't comment on whether the ESA is effective or not, but clearly several members decided that this is not the kind of reward they expect for that amount spent.

 For the industry's largest players, those fees could be $4.5 million or more per year. id CEO Todd Hollenshead also cited membership fees:

Our departure from ESA is probably temporary and was not political. It was just a question of other priorities this year that we wanted to focus on... [The ESA] is a credit to the industry.

Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), told Musgrove he knew of two other (unnamed) publishers that are planning to drop their ESA membership status:

Several [other publishers] are unhappy but remain with the organization... It's really concerning for all of us. Anyone who cares about the games business should be concerned about what's going on with the ESA.

Musgrove noted that Gallagher has maintained a relatively low profile since taking over the reigns, and that support was top-tier game publishers seems less effusive than it was in 2007:

[Gallagher's] been kind of quiet since that [September WaPo profile]... After a Fox News show featured an uninformed pundit going off about the allegedly sexually explicit nature of... Mass Effect, some gamers complained that the ESA did not step in to defend the game industry...

 

While top-ranking game industry executives were quick to get on the phone or respond to my e-mail queries about Gallagher last year, they weren't as chatty this year... Last year, Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft's game division, got on the phone to sing Gallagher's praises. This year, Microsoft sent me a statement: "We're as committed as ever to the ESA, and we look forward to participating in E3 this summer." Nintendo released a shorter, nine-word statement along the same lines.

For his part, Gallagher told Musgrove:

When it's necessary for the industry to have that loud, clear and public voice to defend itself from a baseless attack, I will be there.


 

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics

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Analyzing Activision's Defection from ESA

May 7, 2008 -

Game biz guru Keith Boesky offers his thoughts on last week's stunning news that Activision and Vivendi have pulled out of the ESA.

While the decision of Activision and several other publishers not to participate in this year's E3 got much of the attention of the gaming press, Boesky sees the ESA defections as the real issue - and we agree:
 

The ESA is this industry’s most important advocate. The organization’s impact as a lobbyist in Congress is effective, but not really tangible... We can however point directly to litigation efforts, which... beat, every legislative attempt to restrict or impair the sale of video games... If not for The ESA, video games would likely not be considered an expression of free speech...

...many are speculating about disappointment over [ESA CEO] Mike Gallagher... We can expect a less confrontational organization than the old ESA and again, it is too early to know whether it is a good thing. I don’t think Mike’s presence... drove the decision...


 

Activision... simply did not want to pay the fee. ESA membership fees are based on revenue. The soon to be largest publisher in the world will be paying more than anyone else, and it did not sound like fun. As far as the impact on lobbying... Activision... can pay a portion of the money they would otherwise pay in membership fees and target their own issues...

Moreover, we have yet to see whether this action is truly a withdrawal, and not a negotiating posture to revise the fee structure has yet to be seen. If it is a withdrawal, it could signal the end of The ESA as we know it.


Meanwhile, The Escapist offers its take:
 

[Activision's] walking away from a long-standing industry group like the ESA is not something done lightly... In light of the news that other industry majors are also dropping out of E3, it leaves the impression that the ESA is standing on some rather shaky ground...


 

An imploded ESA... leaves the industry without any form of organized political influence in Washington. With anti-videogame hysteria swirling around releases like Grand Theft Auto IV and Bully while the general public is subjected to a steady stream of misinformation... the lack of a unified voice speaking for the industry could be devastating.

 

22 comments

BREAKING (UP): Activision and Vivendi Jump Ship From ESA

May 2, 2008 -

The Entertainment Software Association, the trade association which represents US game publishers, is losing Activision and Vivendi as member companies.

UPDATE: We've just received confirmation from the ESA. Rich Taylor, ESA Senior Vice President of Communications and Research, issued the following statement:
 

While the Entertainment Software Association remains the preeminent voice for U.S. computer and video game publishers, we can confirm that Activision and Vivendi Games opted to discontinue their membership.

The ESA remains dedicated to advancing our industry’s objectives such as protecting intellectual property, preserving First Amendment rights, and fostering a beneficial environment for the entire industry. Our high level of service and value to members and the larger industry remains unchanged.


We began working on this story this morning after reading online reports that Activision would not be exhibiting at E3 in July. Beyond that information, GamePolitics observed that the ESA's new website lists neither Activision or Vivendi as member companies.

The two game publishers, of course, are in the process of merging into Activision Blizzard. The reason for their decision to leave the ESA remains unclear at this point. Also unclear is whether any additional game publishers may defect from ESA member ranks.

The loss of two of its larger member firms will likely have a significant impact on the ESA's revenue base. In addition to its own operations, the ESA funds E3, the Video Game Voters Network, the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences and the D.I.C.E. Summit. Any or all of those entities could feel the repercussions from the ESA's loss of member revenues.

UPDATE 2: We've got comment from Activision now:
 

After careful consideration, Activision has decided not to renew its ESA membership for business reasons and will not be participating in any official E3 activities.  We appreciate the work that the ESA has done over the years in promoting the interactive entertainment industry with state and federal governments and wish the ESA best of luck with the show.


UPDATE 3: Kotaku is reporting that four more publishers (NCSoft, Codemasters, id and Her Entertainment) won't participate in E3, although they are not dropping out of the ESA). Kotaku also has quotes from Wedbush-Morgan's Michael Pachter, who blames ESA president Mike Gallagher for the current issues with the publishers:
 

Lowenstein was a very savvy industry veteran who paid attention to the goings-on in the industry and cared what the community had to say. The new person... whose name completely escapes me because I've never met him or heard from him, is far less knowledgeable and sophisticated about this industry than Doug was and is going to make some rookie mistakes.


 

Doug used to be a very visible spokesperson in congress... when you'd get these [things like] Barack Obama saying videogames are corrupting our youth or MADD saying that Take-Two should pull GTA off the shelves, you would hear Lowenstein immediately shoot back. I would guess that Activision doesn't perceive the same value from the ESA as they did under Doug's leadership. I criticize [Gallagher's] lack of drive to learn about the industry.

 

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NeenekoJust look at how interviews are handled. Media tends to pit someone who is at best a journalist, but usually entertainer, against an expert, and it is presented and percieved as if they are equals.10/25/2014 - 7:38am
Neeneko@MC - Focusing on perpetrator does nothing for prevention, the media and public lack the domain knowledge and event details to draw any useful conclusions. All we get are armchair risk experts.10/25/2014 - 7:36am
Neeneko@AE - no name or picture, I like it.10/25/2014 - 7:34am
PHX Corp@MW and AE The news media needs to stop promoting the Shooters. period10/25/2014 - 7:16am
Andrew EisenWhen I write about these massacres, I don't use the shooter's name or picture. I'm not saying everyone has to play it that way but that's how I prefer to do it.10/25/2014 - 12:44am
Andrew EisenYep, it's why the news media stopped spotlighting numbnuts who run out on the field during sporting events.10/25/2014 - 12:01am
Matthew Wilsonin media research its called the copycat effect. it simply says that if the news covers one mass shooting shooter, it increases the likelihood of another person going on a mass shooting.10/25/2014 - 12:00am
Andrew EisenAgreed. It bugs me that I know the names, faces and personal histories of a bunch of mass shooters but I couldn't tell you the name of or recognize a photo of a single one of their victims.10/24/2014 - 11:51pm
AvalongodAgree with Quiknkold. @Mecha...if that worked we would have figured out how to prevent these long ago.10/24/2014 - 11:32pm
MechaCrashUnfortunately, you have to focus on the perpetrator to figure out the whys so you can try to prevent it from happening again.10/24/2014 - 10:55pm
quiknkoldpoor girl. poor victims. rather focus on them then the shooter. giving too much thought to the monster takes away from the victims.10/24/2014 - 10:15pm
Andrew EisenFor what it's worth, early reports are painting the motive as "he was pissed that a particular girl wouldn't date him."10/24/2014 - 10:12pm
quiknkoldwell then I suck as a man cause I ask for help when necessary :P10/24/2014 - 10:07pm
Technogeek(That said, mostly I was making the smartass evopsych comment because your post seemed like the kind of just-so story that has come to dominate 99% of its usage.)10/24/2014 - 10:04pm
TechnogeekHell, Liam Neeson built his modern career around it. Cultural factors likely play a far greater role than you appear willing to admit.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
TechnogeekSeriously, though, the idea of "because women are protectors and that's why they never commit school shootings" is, at best, grossly overreductive. There's nothing inherently feminine about being willing to kill in order to protect one's offspring.10/24/2014 - 10:03pm
MechaCrashThe "toxic masculinity" thing refers to how you have to SUCK IT UP AND BE A MAN because seeking help is seen as weakness, which means you suck at manliness, so it builds and builds and builds until something finally snaps.10/24/2014 - 10:01pm
quiknkoldthere, I'm done. And thats what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldand I am not spouting Evopsych, technogeek. tbh I never heard the phrase till you said it. I'm going off my observations.10/24/2014 - 9:54pm
quiknkoldmoreover, the guy who did this isnt even white. He was native american according to the news report I read. Also that he went for a specific target. That's a much different picture than a certain Sandy Hook guy who will not be named10/24/2014 - 9:53pm
 

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