Activision Blizzard is breaking away from French parent company Vivendi Universal and buying itself back in a two-part share acquisition for $8.17 billion, the company announced today.
As part of the deal, Activision will buy back approximately 429 million shares from Vivendi for $5.83 billion. At the same time, a group of investors called ASAC II — headed by current Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick and co-chairman Brian Kelly — will purchase approximately 172 million Activision Blizzard shares from Vivendi for $2.34 billion.
Kotick and Kelly, who contributed $100 million combined to ASAC II, will become CEO and chairman, respectively, of the newly independent Activision Blizzard. Following the expected completion of the transaction in September, Vivendi will retain a 12 percent stake in the company and ASAC II will be the majority shareholder with 24.9 percent. Other notable ASAC II members include Chinese online entertainment company Tencent, investment firm Davis Advisors and private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners.
"These transactions together represent a tremendous opportunity for Activision Blizzard and all its shareholders, including Vivendi," Kotick said in a prepared statement. "We should emerge even stronger — an independent company with a best-in-class franchise portfolio and the focus and flexibility to drive long-term shareholder value and expand our leadership position as one of the world's most important entertainment companies. The transactions announced today will allow us to take advantage of attractive financing markets while still retaining more than $3 billion cash on hand to preserve financial stability."
The announcement follows talks Vivendi SA held earlier this week about its plans to extract a $3 billion special dividend from Activision Blizzard. Vivendi had sought to sell its stake in Activision Blizzard last year in an attempt to bolster its stock price after a nine-year low. It was rumored in May that Activision management was "interested in buying out" part of Vivendi's current stake.
Activision announced in 2007 that it would merge with Vivendi Games, and the European Commission approved the merger in 2008. The $18.9 billion deal was finalized mid-2008, leaving Vivendi as the majority shareholder with a 52 percent stake in Activision Blizzard.
Activision is expected to reveal more about the deal in an investor call scheduled for today.
Samit Sarkar contributed to this report.