Investment group tries to block Microsoft buyout of Activision Blizzard


Not everyone is in favour of the buyout (pic: Activison)

Activision Blizzard shareholders are being urged not to vote for the Microsoft acquisition, by a group arguing it’s not good for employees or business.

Microsoft’s £50 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest news stories in the modern history of video games but it’s not yet a done deal.

There first has to be an investigation by the US monopoly agency and while nobody expects that to prevent the buyout it’s emerged that a group of investors are advising Activision Blizzard shareholders not to accept the deal.

A stockholder meeting is scheduled for April 28 and unless a majority vote in favour of the acquisition it cannot go ahead, no matter what anyone else says or does.

The SOC Investment Group has two main objections to the plans, the first being a straightforward business-related concern, that the deal undervalues Activision Blizzard.

It argues, quite reasonably, that Microsoft made the offer while the company was at a low point, following the financial disappointment of Call Of Duty: Vanguard and the ongoing fallout from revelations about the company’s toxic workplace conditions – and that under normal circumstance it would have cost a lot more, and thereby generated more money for shareholders.

Rather than being ambivalent about the workplace issues, the group has repeatedly called for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick (who stands to gain a considerable monetary bonus from the acquisition), as well as other executives, for their handling of the scandal.

‘We do not believe that Activision shareholders should be looking to a transaction to rebuild the value lost by Activision management’s failure to ensure workplace safety and equity and by the board’s failure to respond constructively to the burgeoning crisis’, wrote the investment group.

‘But we also observe that at least since last July, Activision employees have courageously demanded that harassment and retaliation at the company end and that they have a decisive role in reshaping the corporate culture going forward.

‘We believe that only by constructively engaging with its workforce – the one asset that Activision cannot sell but without which the company cannot operate – can the company begin a genuine turnaround and restore investors’ confidence in its reputation and operations.’

A number of US sensors have also expressed their concern that the merger will, purposefully or otherwise, hinder attempts by employees to unionise and thereby threaten ‘worker-led demands for accountability’.

What chance the group has to sway investors is unclear – after all, their attempts to oust Bobby Kotick have so far been unsuccessful – but it’s clear that the acquisition, which Microsoft hoped would be completed by early next year, is no longer the certainty it first seemed.


Xbox + Activision Blizzard graphic

Will shareholders voted against the deal? (pic: Microsoft)

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