Activision Blizzard becomes independent in $5.8-billion transaction

Activision Blizzard, the world's largest video game publisher, will separate from its French media parent to become an independent, publicly traded company. 

The company's managers orchestrated a complex transaction to buy back shares from French parent Vivendi, and take back control of the company -- while leaving the majority of Activision Blizzard held by the public.

In a deal announced late Thursday, Activision Blizard will buy back approximately 429 million shares from Vivendi for roughly $5.83 billion, or $13.60 a share.

At the same time, ASAC II -- an investment group created by Activision Blizzard Chief Executive Bobby Kotick and Co-Chairman Brian Kelly, to which they contributed a combined $100 million -- will purchase about 172 million Activision shares from Vivendi for about $2.34 billion in cash. Other investors include Davis Advisors, Leonard Green & Partners and Tencent.

Vivendi, which has begun to divest companies to reflect new corporate priorities, will retain a 12% stake.

"This transaction uniquely benefits the public shareholders," Kotick said in an interview. "The commitment that we have from Vivendi to continue as a shareholder shows their enthusiasm for the business. My investment shows I'm committed and enthusiastic about the prospects of the business."

The Santa Monica-based company publishes such popular game titles as "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft."

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