Vivendi considered firing Kotick

Emails show Activision CEO was willing to quit or be fired over his insistence on being part of any purchasing group for Call of Duty publisher

Bobby Kotick has been the top executive at Activision for more than 20 years, but his run with the company almost came to an end last year. As reported by Bloomberg, emails released as part of a shareholder lawsuit show that the French corporation was considering ousting Kotick rather than allow him to be part of an investor group behind an $8.2 billion deal that saw Activision buy itself back from its then-parent company.

According to the documents, Kotick had delivered an ultimatum of sorts, saying he would not cooperate in any Vivendi plan to raise money through Activision that didn't include selling a chunk of its shares to the group headed up by him and co-chairman Brian Kelly. Kotick added that the board of directors could terminate him if that wasn't agreeable.

As Vivendi's then-CEO Jean-Francois Dubos said in an email translated into English, "I really wonder who's going to fire him." That was replied to by Vivendi CFO and then-Activision chairman Philippe Capron saying, "Myself, happily. Tomorrow if you want."

As for why Kotick wasn't fired, Capron said in an email that Kotick's public image was "strong." Around the same time, Vivendi General Counsel Frederic Crepin speculated that Kotick was betting Vivendi wouldn't dare fire him, presumably because the market would react negatively to the prospects of an Activision Blizzard without him at the helm.

An Activision representative told Bloomberg today that the company's board of directors supports Kotick and Kelly in their current and ongoing roles.

Kotick and Kelly are being sued along with Vivendi executives who also served on Activision's board of directors for failing to protect the interests of their minority shareholders. Instead, the suit alleges that their concerns were providing Vivendi with liquidity and allowing Kotick and Kelley to gain control of Activision while their investment group acquired shares at a discount to the market price, serving personal interests in conflict with the interests of their shareholders. The suit notes that Activision's stock price went up in the wake of the announcement, and Kotick and Kelly's group saw an unrealized gain of $725 million by the first day of trading after the transaction closed.

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Latest comments (5)

Steve Wetz Reviewer/Assistant Editor, Gamer's Glance6 years ago
Imagine being so indispensible that you would call Vivendi out like this. Perhaps Bobby Kotick's Wikipedia page should include this as a reference point for the mass of balls this would take.

Still, the man has a realistic perception of his value. Activision Blizzard basically prints its own money at this point. Consider that World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Diablo, Starcraft, Skylanders, and Destiny are all AB products. The German national football team doesn't have a lineup that sounds that strong. He and Brian Kelly now own a quarter of the company AND are out from under the thumb of Vivendi - they deserve all the success they have and will continue to have.
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William Usher Assistant Editor, Cinema Blend6 years ago
I may not like all of their business tactics that affect the gamer on a consumer level, but hot-dang did Bobby play his cards smart during the buyout from under Vivendi.

"Mass of balls" seems like an appropriate description of the scenario, based on this report anyway.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 6 years ago
It kind of makes you wonder what Kotick could do if he became in charge of Nintendo.
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William D. Volk Founder, Deep State Games6 years ago
I was at Activision when Bobby rescued it in the 1990's. Very impressive.
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Who Dares win's.
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