On November 16, 2021, a report was published that claimed Activision CEO Bobby Kotick was well aware of harassment happening within his company. It also alleged that he himself mistreated women, both inside and outside work. Now, new docs reveal that three days later, Xbox head Phil Spencer called Kotick and began talks that ultimately led to the massive $68 billion acquisition.
As spotted by CNBC, these new details about the Activision/Microsoft deal come from an SEC regulatory filing released on Friday. In it, we get a complete and highly detailed timeline of how and when the talks between Microsoft and Activision began.
As mentioned already, on November 16 a bombshell Wall Street Journal report was published that alleged Kotick knew about sexual harassment claims at the company and that he was himself accused of mistreating employees. Following that report, Activision’s share price dropped nearly $10. On November 18, Spencer emailed staff at Microsoft and Xbox that he was “disturbed and deeply troubled” by the report and the stories coming out of Activision Blizzard. He also claimed to be reconsidering Xbox and Activision’s relationship.
On November 19, the very next day, Spencer called Kotick and according to the SEC filing, during a conversation about something else, Spencer told the CEO that “Microsoft was interested in discussing strategic opportunities” between the two companies. He then asked if it would be possible for Kotick and himself to talk to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella the following day.
On November 20, Nadella made it clear: Microsoft wanted to buy up Activision.
Less than 8 weeks later, following shockingly fast negotiations between the two companies, Microsoft and Activision announced the acquisition on January 18, 2022. It’s wild how quickly this historic, mega-deal came together when compared to the comparatively much smaller $3.6 billion Bungie/Sony deal that was announced January 31. That took “months” to figure out, according to Bungie and Sony.
The reason for the speed is likely down to the feeding frenzy that began in November. Revealed in the SEC filing is news that at least four other companies were interested in also buying Activision. All of the companies are unnamed in the document, but apparently, one company wanted to just buy Blizzard. However, the Activision board believed this would be too tricky to pull off. It seems Microsoft had to act fast and aggressively in its negotiations as a result of the other offers and companies.
Kotaku reached out to Activision and Microsoft about the timeline and details revealed in the SEC filing.
The filing also shows that, whatever happens, Kotick will leave with a lot of money. If he leaves, which is reportedly what will happen shortly after the deal is finalized, he can sell all his shares of Activision and walk away with $410,142,075 based on the $95 per share price that Microsoft plans to pay. And if he decides to stay, but Microsoft pushes him out anyway, Kotick still ends up with $14,592,302. Rich slimebags don’t even get fired like normal people.
This new, detailed timeline is eye-opening and seems to confirm reports that Microsoft did indeed swoop in following Activision’s stock nose-diving after the WSJ report in November. It also seems that Phil Spencer and others at Xbox might have indeed been disturbed by reports coming out of Activision, but not too disturbed or disgusted to still see an opportunity to buy up the company.
Correction: This article claimed the “bombshell report” was published by Bloomberg. That was incorrect. It was the Wall Street Journal.