Activision CEO faced firing during Vivendi buyout talks

Activision Blizzard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick.
Activision Blizzard Inc. Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick.
(Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)

Bobby Kotick, chief executive at video game publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. (think “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft”), saw his job threatened last year when he refused to accept the sale of some of Activision’s shares to anyone but a group he controlled, according to court documents.

Kotick, Activision Chairman Brian Kelly and their group ended up buying a $2.3-billion stake in Activision from Vivendi SA in a deal that other Activision shareholders are targeting in a lawsuit.

Last month, a Delaware judge ruled that the lawsuit should move forward because shareholders had raised legitimate concerns about how Activision’s board handled the buyout of Vivendi SA’s stake. The shareholders alleged that Kotick’s group should have paid a premium and that Kotick and Kelly have too much control over the company.

An amended complaint filed last month says Vivendi executives, including one who served as Activision chairman, considered ousting Kotick during the sale discussions. Bloomberg reported news of the new details on Wednesday.

The complaint cites emails in which then-Activision chairman and Vivendi executive Phillipe Capron writes that he’ll “happily” fire Kotick and that others have said Kotick “is not really worth it, but his image with respect to the market remains very strong.”


Kotick, CEO since 1991, had also threatened to quit if he didn’t get his way in the sale, according to court filings.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Activision board said that directors believe Kotick and Kelly “are the most effective executives in the interactive entertainment industry.”

The statement continued, “The recent transaction restructuring the company’s ownership has received widespread market support and has proven beneficial to the company and all of its shareholders.”

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