Activision Closes Deal for Most of Vivendi’s Stake

Activision Closes Deal for Most of Vivendi’s Stake

Thanks to a court’s timely intervention, Activision Blizzard on Friday closed its deal to buy a majority of Vivendi’s stake in the video game maker for $ 8.2 billion.

The speedy closing comes just a day after the Delaware Supreme Court struck down an injunction by a lower court that prevented the transaction from being completed.

With the deal’s closing, Activision Blizzard, the maker of the blockbuster “Call of Duty” franchise, will become an independent company, though still under the control of its chief executive, Robert Kotick, and its chairman, Brian Kelly.

“The incredible shareholder response that we’ve gotten from institutional shareholders to the deal has been a great validation,” Mr. Kotick said in a phone interview.

The transaction was long in the making but began coalescing several months ago when Mr. Kotick assembled a group of partners to help buy out most of Vivendi’s stake.

Mr. Kotick had long wanted a firmer grasp over the company that he has built into a video game behemoth. As Vivendi, the French conglomerate, grappled with issues in its other businesses and was increasingly diverted from Activision Blizzard, he moved to take control.

In late July, Activision Blizzard announced that Vivendi would reduce its stake to 12 percent from 61 percent.

But the plan was dealt a surprising setback last month when a Delaware Chancery Court judge intervened as part of a shareholder’s lawsuit against the deal. The judge, Vice Chancellor J. Travis Laster, ruled that Activision Blizzard’s certificate of incorporation required a shareholder vote on the deal.

Lawyers for Activision Blizzard argued in court that the provision did not apply because it pertained to a merger and not what was essentially a stock buyback.

A prolonged delay would have had serious consequences for the deal. The financing for the transaction is scheduled to expire on Dec. 15, which would have left Mr. Kotick and his partners scrambling if the deal had not been completed by then.

Now, Mr. Kotick said, he and the company are free to focus on new projects, beginning with the latest installment of the “Call of Duty” franchise, “Call of Duty: Ghosts.” He said that he was also intrigued by the emergence of huge video game tournaments in countries like South Korea, a business model that could be exported elsewhere.

And he plans to focus heavily on making inroads in China. One of the members of the investment group that backed the July transaction is Tencent, the big Chinese internet concern, Mr. Kotick pointed out.

“The investment decision shows the enthusiasm they have for ‘Call of Duty’ in China,” he said.

But one area that Activision Blizzard may be less active in is deal-making. The company prefers to develop skills and technologies in-house at this point.

“We’re pretty rigid and disciplined,” Mr. Kotick said.



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