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Activision Gains Autonomy From Vivendi as Deal Completes

E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo
Attendees mingle inside the Activision Blizzard Inc. theatre during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Activision shares have gained 61 percent this year. Photographer: Patrick Fallon/Bloomberg

Activision Blizzard Inc. and a group led by Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick completed their $8.2 billion buyout of most of the stake held by Vivendi SA, after a court cleared the final hurdle to the deal.

The video game publisher, based in Santa Monica, California, bought back $5.83 billion of stock from Paris-based Vivendi, and Kotick and his partners paid $2.34 billion, according to a statement yesterday.

Activision, independent after five years as a unit of Vivendi, gains the freedom to consider acquisitions and growth opportunities without the uncertainty of a struggling parent. The buyout came a day after the Delaware Supreme Court said a shareholder vote on the transaction wasn’t required.

“It reduces the uncertainty about our business and allows us to get back to focusing on making great games,” Kotick said in a phone interview.

On Oct. 13, Activision begins selling the latest installment of “Skylanders,” a game he called “one of the best products we’ve ever created.” “Skylanders,” which combines action figures with online play, competes with Walt Disney Co.’s “Disney Infinity,” which went on sale in August.

Activision, also the maker of the “Call of Duty” games, will be able to pursue expansion opportunities in China and other markets, Kotick said. The buyout might have fallen apart if not completed by a Dec. 15 expiration of financing arrangements that the company had negotiated, he said.

Investor Group

Kotick and his partners, who include co-Chairman Brian Kelly, Chinese video-game publisher Tencent Holdings Ltd., Davis Advisors and Leonard Green & Partners, will hold about a 25 percent stake and be the largest investor group. Vivendi’s stake falls to about 12 percent, according to the statement.

A Delaware Chancery Court judge had blocked the purchase of Vivendi’s stock after a shareholder sued, arguing the transaction would allow Kotick’s group to exercise control over the company without approval by a majority vote of investors outside Vivendi.

“We expect immediate shareholder benefits in the form of earnings-per-share accretion and strategic and operational independence,” Kotick said in the statement.

Activision rose 0.2 percent to $17.08 yesterday at the New York close. The shares have gained 61 percent this year.

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