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The Real Story Behind the Kotick-Nadella Deal

Bobby Kotick at Sun Valley
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
January 19, 2022

In business, success can sometimes come down to making the best of a bad situation. Knowing when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, et cetera, and knowing how to fold said cards in the most advantageous way for your company, your shareholders, and yourself. In mid-November, Bobby Kotick, the chief executive of the gaming giant Activision Blizzard, had endured a year of production delays, workplace controversies, a federal investigation and state lawsuit, extremely bad press, and an intensifying unionization effort—all of which had pushed $ATVI stock down 45 percent from an all-time high in February. Some in the Sun Valley potluck set were fearful for his future. 

Suitors were circling, meanwhile, looking to buy the video game empire at a massive discount. But even then, Kotick showed no indication that he planned to cash in, according to sources familiar with his thinking. He still had the support of his board, these people said, and he had just been authorized to issue a $4 billion stock buyback that he hoped would fuel the company’s growth.