The Real Reasons Activision Blizzard Was Sold, Without Bobby Kotick’s PR Spin

The Real Reasons Activision Blizzard Was Sold, Without Bobby Kotick’s PR Spin
Photo: Mike Windle, Getty Images

As you probably already heard, Microsoft is looking to purchase Activision Blizzard for a whopping $95 billion. But why Activision CEO Bobby Kotick suddenly decided to give up control of the company and where that leaves the beleaguered executive after the ink dries changes depending on who you ask.

Kotick himself, for example, said it’s all about ensuring Activision has the resources to tackle future trends.

“We were looking over the course of the next couple of years and starting to realise that we need thousands of people to be able to execute against our production plans,” Kotick explained during an unsurprisingly obsequious interview by GamesBeat. “We need them in disciplines like AI and machine learning, or in data analytics, or in purpose-built cloud and cybersecurity — and that we just don’t have. And that competition for that talent is expensive, and really hard to come by.”

As for Kotick’s tenure, all parties involved have reiterated that he will remain CEO of Activision Blizzard for the foreseeable future. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella even went as far as to say he’s “grateful” for Kotick’s “leadership and commitment to real culture change,” a very puzzling compliment to pay to a man as vile as Kotick has proven to be over the course of, well, his entire career.

Additional reporting, however, throws the stated reasons for the Microsoft acquisition and the prospect of Kotick potentially sticking around into question.

According to both The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, Kotick is expected to leave Activision as soon as Microsoft’s purchase is finalised in the next fiscal year. Kotick’s reputation in the public sphere is at an all-time low following the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard by the state of California and news of Kotick’s own culpability. It only makes sense that Activision’s new owners would want to divorce the company from the man currently in charge.

Bloomberg’s reporting further notes that it was these same controversies that prompted Microsoft to swoop in and attempt to gobble Activision Blizzard up in the first place. Someone familiar with the proceedings told Bloomberg that Kotick didn’t want to sell but surprisingly held too little leverage with his cronies on the Activision board to resist an acquisition.

Despite Kotick’s initial reservations and potential future ousting, Microsoft’s purchase of Activision Blizzard should provide yet another lucrative payday for one of the highest-paid CEOs in the United States.

A quick scan of various independent sources shows Kotick holding anywhere from 3.9 million to 4.3 million shares in Activision Blizzard, amounting to upward of a $US408.5 ($567) million windfall at the $US95 ($132) a share on offer by Microsoft. And that’s not even factoring in the hundreds of millions in potential benefits he’s been promised for just leaving the company.

Honestly, it couldn’t have happened to a more stand-up guy.