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The stormy courtship of Blizzard/Activision

Michael Zenke

We've talked quite a bit about the merger of Vivendi's games unit and the publisher Activision, and what the newly formed Blizzard/Activision behemoth might mean for the industry. A proxy statement for the deal unearthed by the Wall Street Journal reveals that not once but twice did the deal come close to collapsing. It also reveals that there was a pretty clear winner in the talks - and it may not be who you think.

The two close calls were all about business gamesmanship, the article notes. The first, in June of last year, came when talks apparently stalled over the issue of price. Activision's stocks were initially valued at $23.38 a share and at one point that summer Jean-Bernard Levy, Vivendi's CEO, phoned Activision CEO Robert Kotick to let him know "he did not think it made sense to continue discussions concerning a possible transaction". Then, in September, Levy phoned Kotick to say essentially the same thing. There were apparently a number of open issues still to discuss at that point, only two months before the official announcement went across the wire.

Both of these delays were nothing more than stalling tactics as obviously both companies were able to put aside their issues and come to an agreement. Still, the Journal notes, Activision came out ahead over the course of negotiations. Those $23 shares ballooned to $27.50 each, a price 31% above the stock price before the announcement. Additionally, Robert Kotick (formerly of Activision) gets to be the CEO of the new combined company. It's easy to get blinded by all that Blizzard gold sometimes, but Vivendi (in this case) looks like it just didn't have all the cards.

[Via FiringSquad]

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