Friday, September 30

Activision Shareholders Approve Xbox Deal, But Wall Street Has Doubts

One of America's highest paid CEOs smiles at his next windfall.

Photo: Mike Windle (Getty Images)

Shareholders at Call of Duty and Overwatch 2 publisher Activision Blizzard voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to approve a $69 billion sale to tech giant Microsoft. The deal gives golden parachutes to top execs at Activision, including embattled CEO Bobby Kotick. But despite gaming’s biggest acquisition ever moving one step closer to completion, the company’s weak stock price indicates Wall Street investors still think the deal could ultimately collapse.

Back in January, Microsoft announced its plan to acquire Activision for $95 a share in an all-cash deal, double-digit premium on what the stock was then valued after months of disturbing reports and lawsuits around the Call of Duty maker’s alleged history of gender discrimination and misconduct. Despite the payday, Activision’s stock fell to its lowest point since the deal was announced yesterday. Even with 98% shareholder support in today’s vote, the acquisition still needs to pass inspection by the Federal Trade Commission, currently chaired by Biden appointee Lina M. Khan, a public advocate for cracking down on anti-competitive consolidation in the marketplace.

In approving that $69 billion deal, shareholders also said yes to potential millions in buyouts for the company’s top leadership. As reported by Axios, Kotick alone could see up to a $22 million bonus, not including his gains from sales of personally owned stock, if a subcommittee of Activision board members decide he has done enough to fix the sexist workplace culture he allegedly oversaw for years.

The board members include Dawn Ostroff, chief content officer at Spotify who helped sign Joe Rogan, and Reveta Bowers, a longtime educator at an elite Los Angeles private elementary school where Kotick served on the board until 2020. Kotick is already one of the highest paid CEOs in America.

The deal could have other big consequences as well. Microsoft has said it will honor existing agreements to keep Call of Duty multiplatform, but it’s unclear what that will mean down the road as the publisher’s huge library of fan favorites like Diablo IV are used to help bolster Game Pass. The Netflix-like subscription service has become a guiding star for Xbox in recent years, and recently acquired upcoming blockbusters like Starfield are day-and-date draws for the service.

If the deal were to eventually be rejected by the FTC, or otherwise collapse in some way, it would leave Activision in a tough spot. Earlier this week it reported weak sales of Call of Duty: Vanguard and recently delayed games like Diablo IV and Overwatch 2 still don’t have release dates. Meanwhile, QA developers at its Raven Software studio are currently set to vote to become the first union ever at a major publisher in the games industry.

Reference-kotaku.com

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