At a special meeting today, Activision Blizzard stockholders approved Microsoft’s proposal to acquire the gaming company for $68.7 billion.
This all-cash transaction values the creator of games like “Call of Duty,” “World of Warcraft” and “Candy Crush” at $95 per share. But investors have worried that FTC chair Lina Khan could pull the plug on the deal due to antitrust concerns, which could explain why shares have been trading consistently lower than Microsoft’s offer. Though today’s vote is a meaningful step towards a successful deal for Activision Blizzard and Microsoft, the deal is still subject to regulatory review. The proposed transaction is expected to close before July 2023.
“Today’s overwhelmingly supportive vote by our stockholders confirms our shared belief that, combined with Microsoft, we will be even better positioned to create great value for our players,” said Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
He added that the deal would provide “even greater opportunities for our employees, and to continue our focus on becoming an inspiring example of a welcoming, respectful and inclusive workplace,” which is a wild statement coming from someone who runs a company facing numerous lawsuits for sexual harassment, retaliation and discriminatory workplace practices. Kotick himself has been accused of knowing for years about sexual misconduct and rape allegations at his company, but doing anything about it.
In light of these conflicts, Kotick announced a zero-tolerance policy against harassment and $250 million investment in recruiting gender diverse talent (at the time, only 23% of employees identified as women or non-binary people). But employee dissatisfaction has prevailed.
When the acquisition was announced in January, quality assurance testers at Raven Software, a division of Activision, had been on strike for five weeks. They protested the layoffs of 12 contractors, which came after over a month of consistent overtime work.
“We realized in that moment that our day-to-day work and our crucial role in the games industry as QA was not being taken into consideration,” Onah Rongstad, a QA tester at Raven Software, told TechCrunch at the time.
Raven Software concluded their strike by forming the historic first union at a major US gaming company, but Activision Blizzard did not voluntarily recognize their union, which meant that they had to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. The gaming giant tried to block the election, arguing that they couldn’t unionize just one department of Raven Software, but the NLRB ruled in favor of the QA testers, giving them permission to vote for union recognition. That vote is expected to take place via mail between April 29 and May 20.
Given the turbulence at Activision Blizzard, Microsoft’s acquisition offer seems like a lifeline. Kotick is expected to step down after the deal closes.