Four US Senators express concern over Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard

Robert Collins

The latest chapter in the saga of the biggest acquisition in gaming history is playing out today after senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter on Thursday to FTC Chair Lina Khan expressing concerns over Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The Federal Trade Commission is in the process of conducting an ongoing review to determine if the acquisition violates antitrust laws.

In the letter, the senators made known their concerns regarding the deal and how it pertains to the fallout from the ongoing scandal that has plagued Activision Blizzard in recent years. After years of alleged sexual misconduct and discrimination at the company, an $18 million settlement was reached between it and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission resolving the sexual harassments lawsuit that had been filed back in July 2021.

In particular, the senators took aim at Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick, stating that “Microsoft’s proposed deal with Activision Blizzard is protecting Mr. Kotick, keeping him in his role as CEO until at least 2023 and guaranteeing him hundreds of millions in profit and a potential additional golden parachute worth over $14.5 million if he does not step down voluntarily.” Kotick has been blamed for helping to create a “frat boy” culture – or at the least turning a blind eye to it – that facilitated persistent harassment of female employees at Activision Blizzard.

As CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick has been widely called upon to step down from the role for his part in the scandal.

In the letter the senators stated that “Despite Mr. Kotick’s professed ignorance, internal documents and interviews released in November 2021 showed that he was aware of several sexual misconduct issues, including alleged assaults, and failed to inform the board of directors or regulators.” The letter added that the merger threatens worker-led demands for accountability and could create a dangerous precedent in the industry.”

For its part, Activision Blizzard has stated officially that the deal will not effect the efforts of company leadership to improve the workplace.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President and General Counsel Lisa Tanzi said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, “We believe Activision Blizzard will continue making progress, and we’re committed to further progress after the deal closes.”