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Why Bobby Kotick sold Activision to Microsoft, without his PR spin

Bobby Kotick sits in a large chair and smiles.

Photo: Mike Windle (Getty Images)

As you have probably already heard, Microsoft is looking to buy Activision Blizzard for as much as $ 68.7 billion. But why Activision CEO Bobby Kotick suddenly decided to relinquish control of the company, and where it leaves the beleagured leader after the ink dries, changes depending on who you ask.

Kotick itself said, for example, that it is about ensuring that Activision has the resources to tackle future trends.

"We looked over the next few years and began to realize that we need thousands of people to be able to perform against our production plans," Kotick explained during a not surprisingly observant interview by GamesBeat. "We need them in disciplines like AI and machine learning, or in data analytics or in custom-built cloud and cybersecurity - and we just don't have that. And that competition for that talent is expensive and really hard to catch."

As for Kotick's tenure, all parties involved have reiterated that he will remain CEO of Activision Blizzard for the foreseeable future. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella even went so far as to say he is "grateful" for Kotick's "leadership and commitment to genuine cultural change", a very confusing compliment to give to a man as disgusting as Kotick has proven to be during, well, throughout his career.

However, further reporting calls into question the stated reasons for the Microsoft acquisition and the prospect of Kotick potentially continuing.

According to both Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, Kotick is expected to leave Activision as soon as Microsoft's acquisition is completed in the next fiscal year. Kotick's reputation in the public sphere is at a record low level after trial of sexual harassment filed against Activision Blizzard by the State of California and news about Kotick's own fault. It only makes sense that Activision's new owners want to separate the company from the man who is currently in charge.

Bloomberg's reporting further notes that it was the same controversies that prompted Microsoft to step in and try to engulf Activision Blizzard in the first place. Someone familiar with the case told Bloomberg which Kotick did not want to sell, but surprisingly had too little leverage with his companions on the Activision board to resist an acquisition.

Despite Kotick's initial reservations and potential future layoffs, Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard should provide another lucrative payday for one of the highest paid CEOs in the United States.

A quick scan of various independent sources shows that Kotick holds anywhere from 3.9 million to 4.3 million shares in Activision Blizzard, which equates to up to $ 408.5 million at the $ 95 per share that Microsoft offers. And that's not even included hundreds of millions in potential benefits he has been promised just to leave the company.

Honestly, that could not have happened to a more stand-up guy.


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