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Activision CEO Bobby Kotick almost got fired over stock deal

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick almost got fired over stock deal

July 16, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

Court documents reveal that management at Activision's former parent Vivendi was on the verge of ousting president and CEO Bobby Kotick over a deal that allowed a group he led to grab up Activision stock when it split from Vivendi.

That deal is now the focus of a lawsuit by shareholder Anthony Pacchia against Kotick and others, including both Vivendi and Activision executives.

The revelations come as part of a report from Bloomberg that features extensive quotes from internal communications at Activision and Vivendi culled from court documents.

"I really wonder whos going to fire him," wrote the then-CEO of Vivendi, Jean-Francois Dubos. "Myself, happily. Tomorrow if you want," came the reply from Philippe Capron -- the French company's CFO and chairman of Activision at the time.

According to the Bloomberg report on the documents, Kotick allegedly threatened to quit if his group (which included Chinese game giant Tencent, with which Activision is now partnering for Call of Duty Online) was blocked from buying up the shares in Activision. Capron promised Vivendi management he would help the company smooth over Kotick's departure in that case. It didn't happen, and Kotick remains the president and CEO of Activision; Capron no longer works for the company, or for Vivendi.

The deal Kotick lead to purchase shares of Activision from Vivendi was worth over $8.2 billion. Kotick and Brian Kelly, now chairman of Activision's board, personally contributed a combined $100 million towards the transaction.

The quotes emerged in court documents in the suit filed by Pacchia, who charges that the group led by Kotick and Kelly was able to unfairly buy up the Activision stock from Vivendi when the two companies parted ways.

Pacchia's suit is consolidated with another suit that alleges wrongdoing on the part of Activision management when it comes to the stock deal. (It's still not the only one.) The alleged problem? Vivendi and Kotick's group unfairly benefitted from the sale in ways that general shareholders could not.

Vivendi later sold off more Activision shares -- but this time, to the public.

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