Posts with «acquisitions & takeovers» label

eBay purchases NFT art marketplace KnownOrigin

eBay truly has fully embraced non-fungible tokens: The e-commerce company has acquired KnownOrigin, an established marketplace for digital art NFTs. As CoinDesk notes, eBay hasn't disclosed how much it paid for the marketplace, but it said in its announced that the purchase is an "important step in [its] tech-led reimagination." KnownOrigin has been around since 2018 and gives artists a platform they can use to create and sell their art as NFTs in exchange for cryptocurrency payments. Based on information from DappRadar, which tracks data on decentralized apps, KnownOrigin has facilitated $7.8 million worth of NFT transactions since its inception. 

Jamie Iannone, eBay CEO, said in a statement:

"eBay is the first stop for people across the globe who are searching for that perfect, hard-to-find, or unique addition to their collection and, with this acquisition, we will remain a leading site as our community is increasingly adding digital collectibles."

eBay made its first foray into NFTs as part of its "tech-led reimagination" last year. It allowed the sale of NFTs on its platform in May 2021 for sellers that meet the company's standards. Back then, it told Reuters that it will add more capabilities "that bring blockchain-driven collectibles" to its platform. This May, the company launched an NFT collection of its own, releasing 13 limited-edition digital collectibles that feature 3D-animated renders of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. In fact, we can expect the company to launch more NFT collections throughout the year. eBay and OneOf, its Web3 partner for the Gretzky drop, said they plan to release more NFTs in the coming months featuring other athletes and updated versions of iconic Sports Illustrated covers.

Microsoft formally agrees to respect Activision Blizzard unionization efforts

Microsoft has formally agreed to respect the right of Activision Blizzard workers to unionize in a pact with the Communications Workers of America. The agreement will be applied 60 days after Microsoft closes its acquisition of the video game publisher. The $68.7 billion takeover requires approval from regulators in various markets and is expected to close by the end of June 2023.

“This agreement provides a pathway for Activision Blizzard workers to exercise their democratic rights to organize and collectively bargain after the close of the Microsoft acquisition and establishes a high road framework for employers in the games industry,” CWA president Chris Shelton said in a statement. “Microsoft’s binding commitments will give employees a seat at the table and ensure that the acquisition of Activision Blizzard benefits the company’s workers and the broader video game labor market. The agreement addresses CWA’s previous concerns regarding the acquisition, and, as a result, we support its approval and look forward to working collaboratively with Microsoft after this deal closes.”

The agreement follows Microsoft announcing a set of "principles for employee organizing" earlier this month that did not contain much in the way of actual substance. The CWA pact is legally binding and centers around five core provisions. Microsoft laid those out as follows:

  • First, Microsoft will take a neutral approach when employees covered by the agreement express interest in joining a union.

  • Second, covered employees will be able to easily exercise their right to communicate with other employees and union representatives about union membership in a way that encourages information sharing and avoids business disruptions.

  • Third, employees will have access to an innovative technology-supported and streamlined process for choosing whether to join a union.

  • Fourth, employees can maintain confidentiality and privacy of that choice if they wish.

  • Fifth, if a disagreement arises between the CWA and Microsoft under the agreement, the two organizations will work together promptly to reach an agreement and will turn to an expedited arbitration process if they cannot.

“Earlier this month, we announced a set of principles that will guide our approach to labor organizations, and the Activision Blizzard acquisition is our first opportunity to put these principles into practice,” Microsoft president and vice chair Brad Smith said. “We appreciate CWA’s collaboration in reaching this agreement, and we see today’s partnership as an avenue to innovate and grow together.”

This is huge! Our hard work is paying off. Thanks to Microsoft for committing to neutrality!

— Game Workers Alliance 💙#WeAreGWA (@WeAreGWA) June 13, 2022

Microsoft and the CWA also agreed to explore other forms of collaboration. Among those are "joint opportunities for the US workforce to benefit from new technology and skill building programs that will enhance the country’s competitiveness."

The arrangement formalizes much of Microsoft's rhetoric about Activision Blizzard workers' attempts to organize. Microsoft Gaming CEO and Xbox chief Phil Spencer reportedly said in an all-hands meeting in late May that "we would absolutely support [an] employees’ organization that’s in place." Microsoft corporate vice president Lisa Tanzi previously said the company "respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.”

The pact may also help Microsoft placate the Federal Trade Commission and antitrust regulators in other key markets as it tries to secure approval for its Activision Blizzard takeover. The publisher's shareholders approved the proposed buyout almost unanimously in April.

Last month, quality assurance workers at Activision studio Raven Software voted to form the first union at a major video games company in North America. Activision Blizzard did not formally challenge the result of the election with the National Labor Relations Board. The company affirmed last week it would enter negotiations with the CWA, which is representing the workers.

Activision Blizzard is bound to conduct good faith negotiations over a collective bargaining agreement, though CEO Bobby Kotick warned that "may take some time to complete." The company, which the CWA hasaccused of union busting, said in April it would hire 1,100 QA workers as permanent employees with higher minimum pay and benefits. However, it did not extend the same offer to the Raven workers who have organized as the Game Workers Alliance.

Twitter will reportedly give its full data stream to Elon Musk

Twitter could comply with Elon Musk’s demand for more data about its users as soon as this week. According to The Washington Post, the company plans to give the billionaire full access to its full “firehose,” an internal database that includes details on the more than 500 million tweets posted to the service every day. In addition to representing a real-time record of what’s happening on Twitter at any moment, the trove includes device data and information about the accounts that access the platform.

After Twitter accepted Musk’s $44 billion buyout offer in April, the billionaire announced in May the deal was “temporarily on hold” over concerns he had about fake accounts. Twitter has consistently claimed that bots represent less than five percent of its daily users, a number Musk says he wants to confirm before moving forward with the acquisition. On Monday, Musk accused the company of committing a “material breach” of the merger agreement by allegedly refusing to disclose enough information about fake accounts.

At the time, Twitter said it would “continue to cooperatively share information” with Musk as it worked toward completing the transaction. “We believe this agreement is in the best interest of all shareholders,” the company told The Post, reiterating its statement from Monday. “We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement at the agreed price and terms.”

How many bots and fake accounts there are on Twitter is important to Musk because that number would have a significant impact on his ability to monetize the platform through ads. Musk has committed about $33 billion of his personal wealth to buy the company, and he’s required to go through with the deal unless he can show Twitter misled him or that its value has changed.

Twitter investors sue Elon Musk over stock manipulation claims

Elon Musk is facing yet another lawsuit over his planned Twitter acquisition. Reutersreports investors have sued the Tesla CEO for allegedly manipulating stock prices ahead of his $44 billion takeover bid. As in an earlier suit, Musk supposedly saved $156 million by failing to disclose that he'd bought more than a 5 percent stake in Twitter by March 14th, violating SEC rules. The investors said Musk only disclosed his investments in early April, when he revealed that he owned a 9.2 percent slice of the social network.

Musk's post-announcement statements also amounted to manipulation, the investors said. They were particularly concerned about his claim that the deal was "on hold" until Twitter could prove that bots weren't a major problem and represented less than 5 percent of accounts.

The plaintiffs in the case are hoping for class action status, and ask for unspecified damages if they're successful. Twitter has declined comment, and Musk hadn't responded to Reuters' requests for comment.

Musk's hoped-for purchase has already sparked a flurry of legal action. In addition to the previously mentioned lawsuit from April, a Florida pension fund sued Musk for purportedly violating a Delaware law that would bar the merger until 2025. The SEC, meanwhile, is investigating Musk's disclosure timing. There's no certainty any of these actions will succeed, but they still pose serious challenges to Musk's ambitions.

Broadcom is buying VMware in a $61 billion mega-deal

Broadcom isn't done attempting major acquisitions. The chip giant is buying cloud- and virtualization-focused software developer VMware for the equivalent of $61 billion in cash and stock. The move would fold Broadcom's software division into VMware and create a theoretical powerhouse that helps companies run apps in all sorts of environments, including "any" cloud service.

The proposed union would have Broadcom take on $8 billion of VMware's debt. The deal should close sometime in Broadcom's fiscal 2023 (no later than early calendar 2023) if regulators approve the deal. Notably, though, VMware isn't yet locked into the merger — a "go-shop" clause will let it consider and even solicit deals from other companies through July 5th.

If the purchase goes forward, it will represent one of the larger tech acquisitions so far. Appropriately, Dell (whose founder sits on VMware's board) set a record for several years when it bought VMware's then-owner EMC for $67 billion in 2015. Microsoft eclipsed that, though, with its still-pending $68.7 billion buyout of Activision Blizzard.

A play like this isn't completely unexpected. On top of its debt, VMware has seen declining profits and modest revenue gains. This could help the firm overcome those hurdles and help its competitiveness. Broadcom may not want to count on the purchase going through, however. Former President Trump blocked Broadcom's purchase of Qualcomm in 2018 over national security concerns. While the administration and acquisition target are clearly different this time around, it wouldn't be surprising if Broadcom faces similar levels of regulatory scrutiny.

Take-Two's $12.7 billion purchase of Zynga is complete

One of the biggest takeovers in the history of the gaming industry is complete — Take-Two now owns Zynga. The companies announced the $12.7 billion acquisition in January. The two sides have cut through all the red tape and, after shareholders gave the thumbs up last week, the deal is done.

Zynga has joined the likes of Rockstar Games and 2K under Take-Two's umbrella. As s result of the deal, Take-Two now has a bigger stable of well-known mobile and casual gaming franchises, including Words with Friends and Farmville. Among the games Zynga is working on is Star Wars: Hunters, a free-to-play arena shooter for mobile and Nintendo Switch that's supposed to arrive this year.

“As we bring together our exceptional talent, exciting pipelines of games, and industry-leading technologies and capabilities, we believe that we can take our portfolio to another level of creativity, innovation, and quality," Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a statement. "Each of our teams has a strong history of operational execution, and together, we expect that we will enhance our financial profile through greater scale and profitability, paving the way for us to deliver strong shareholder value.”

Take-Two's buyout of Zynga is part of a major wave of consolidation across the gaming industry. In January, Sony announced it was buying Destiny 2 studio Bungie for $3.6 billion. That news came just days after Microsoft said it planned to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. Both takeovers are pending regulatory approval. Activision Blizzard shareholders voted in favor of the Microsoft deal last month.

EA is reportedly seeking a sale or a merger

Electronic Arts is actively (and persistently) looking for a buyer or another company willing to merge with it, according to Puck. The video game company reportedly held talks with a number of potential buyers or partners, including Disney, Apple and Amazon. It's unclear which were interested in fully purchasing EA and which were looking to merge, but in case of a merger, Puck said EA is seeking a deal that would allow Andrew Wilson to remain chief executive of the combined company.

EA approached Disney in March in an attempt to forge "a more meaningful relationship" that would go beyond licensing deals, according to the source. However, Disney decided not to push forward, perhaps because it's currently focused on its nascent streaming service. The publication said the idea of a merger between EA and ESPN, which Disney partly owns, is being floated around in the industry.

Among all the potential partners, however, it was perhaps Comcast who got the closest to a deal. Comcast CEO Brian Roberts reportedly approached Wilson with an offer to merge NBCUniversal with EA. Under the deal, Roberts would take majority control of the merged company, but Wilson would remain chief executive. The people involved didn't agree over the price of the sale and the structure of the combined entity, though, and the agreement fell through within the last month. 

EA remains a company of its own for now, but Puck said it has become more emboldened in its quest to find a sale or a merger since Microsoft announced that it's snapping up Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion, so that might not be be the case for long. It's worth noting that Sony also revealed that it's buying Destiny studio Bungie for $3.6 billion shortly after Microsoft announced the acquisition.

EA spokesperson John Reseburg told Puck that the company would not comment "on rumors and speculation relating to [mergers and acquisitions]." Reseburg added: "We are proud to be operating from a position of strength and growth, with a portfolio of amazing games, built around powerful IP, made by incredibly talented teams, and a network of more than half a billion players. We see a very bright future ahead."

Florida pension fund sues Elon Musk over Twitter deal

Elon Musk's $44 billion buyout of Twitter is facing its first legal challenge. A Florida pension fund is suing Musk and Twitter, arguing that the deal can't legally close until 2025 due to the billionaire's stake in the platform. The proposed class-action lawsuit — filed today by the Orlando Police Pension Fund in the Delaware Chancery court— also declares that Twitter’s board of directors breached its fiduciary duties by allowing the deal to go through. In addition to Musk and Twitter, the lawsuit also named former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal and the company’s board as defendants.

In a message to Engadget, Tulane Law School’s Professor Ann M. Lipton says the lawsuit raises "some very novel issues" under Delaware corporate law. Under a law known as Section 203, shareholders who own more than 15 percent of the company can’t enter a merger without two-thirds of the remaining shares granting approval. Without this approval, the merger can’t be finalized for another three years.

The fund’s lawyers state that Musk initially owned roughly 10 percent of Twitter’s shares, which would seemingly not make Section 203 applicable. But, the fund argues, Musk formed a pact with Morgan Stanley (which owns 8.8 percent of shares) and former CEO Jack Dorsey (who has 2.4 percent) to advance the deal. The combined stake of these parties allegedly makes Musk and his allies in the takeover deal an "interested shareholder" under Section 203 — which, if the court agrees with the underlying reasoning presented in the case, means the merger must either be delayed or get approval shareholders representing at least two-thirds of the company's ownership. 

“Section 203 is not often litigated, and so the issue of whether Musk's relationship with these parties actually counts for statutory purposes is an unsettled question and it will be interesting to watch how it unfolds,” wrote Lipton.

More details of Musk’s highly complex $44 billion buyout of Twitter have been made public since the social media platform accepted the billionaire’s offer last month. The New York Times reported that Musk promised investors returns of nearly five to ten times their investments if the deal went through. Parts of the deal are being scrutinized, including its reliance on foreign investors and whether Musk bought shares in the company specifically to influence its leadership. But antitrust experts say the merger is unlikely to be blocked by the FTC. The agency will decide in the next month whether to quickly approve the merger or launch a lengthier investigation.

NYC targets CEO Bobby Kotick in latest Activision Blizzard lawsuit

Activision Blizzard has been hit with another lawsuit, this time from New York City officials. The suit, which was first obtained by Axios, takes aim at CEO Bobby Kotick. It accuses him of being "unfit" to negotiate his company's pending sale to Microsoft, citing his "personal responsibility and liability for Activision’s broken workplace."

The suit was filed by the New York City Employees' Retirement System and pension funds that represent police, teachers and firefighters. The plaintiffs, who own stock in Activision Blizzard, argue that the Microsoft deal allows “Kotick and his fellow directors a means to escape liability for their egregious breaches of fiduciary duty.”

Since last July, Activision Blizzard has been the target of multiple lawsuits. It has been accused of fostering a "frat boy" culture and some have made allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination. In March, a wrongful death suit was filed against the company. Activision Blizzard also said in a filing yesterday that it's cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation on "disclosures on employment matters and related issues."

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick was aware of many of the alleged instances of harassment and that he may have protected employees who were accused of misconduct. That report, and the alleged workplace problems, are said to have prompted the buyout. The companies announced the sale in January.

New York City claims the $68.7 billion Microsoft deal, which was valued at $95 per share, undervalues a company that was trading at close to that price before the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued it last summer and started a wave of litigation. The NYC plaintiffs are demanding access to various company documents, including those related to the pending takeover and details on the five other possible buyers that Activision mentioned in filings on sale talks.

Activision Blizzard shareholders last week overwhelmingly approved the Microsoft deal. The companies hope to close the merger by the end of June 2023, though they require approval from regulators in the US, UK, China, the European Union and some other markets. Should the sale go through, Kotick stands to make as much as $520 million.

Embracer is buying Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and three Square Enix game studios

Swedish game company Embracer Group has just made a blockbuster deal to acquire Crystal Dynamics, Eidos-Montréal and Square Enix Montréal for what seems like a bargain $300 million price, the company confirmed in a press release. The deal includes a "catalogue of IPs including Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, Thief, Legacy of Kain and more than 50 back-catalogue games from Square Enix Holdings," it wrote. The transaction is subject to regulatory approval. 

Those studios represent around 1,100 employees across eight global locations, the company noted. When the deal is finalized, Embracer will have 14,000 employees, 10,000 game developers and 124 internal studios. It has more than 230 games in development, with 30 of those being AAA titles. "This acquisition will bring additional scale to Embracer’s current AAA segment, and Embracer will have one of the largest pipelines of PC/Console games content across the industry, across all genres," it said. 

Today we have entered into agreement to welcome over 1000 new colleagues through the acquisition of @CrystalDynamics, @EidosMontreal, and @SquareEnixMtl with a fantastic catalog of IPs such as Tomb Raider and Deux Ex, to be part of our ecosystem.

— Embracer Group (@embracergroup) May 2, 2022

As part of the deal, Eidos Montreal plans to revive Deus Ex and use new Unreal Engine 5 technology, the studio said during the acquisition conference call, as Shack News reported. "At this time, we are crazy people who have decided to revive the Deus Ex IP as our first game," Eidos Montreal Studio Head David Anfossi said. "A new team, a very complex production, a new tech, and a new studio, an easy challenge." Anfossi noted that Deus Ex console sales have exceeded 12 million units. 

Last month, Crystal Dynamics announced that it was developing a new Tomb Raider game, also based on Unreal Engine 5, with plans to "push the envelope of fidelity." The studio also developed Marvel's Avengers, among other titles. Eidos Montréal created Thief 4, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and more, and is "working on a host of AAA projects including both new releases from beloved franchises and original IP," according to the Embracer press release. 

As we detailed in a feature last year, Embracer is perhaps "the biggest games publisher you've never heard of," founded by Swedish entrepreneur Lars Wingefors. It made a string of acquisitions over the last couple of years, most significantly purchasing Saber Interactive for $525 million and Gearbox Software for $1.3 billion.

It now own quite a list of iconic franchises, particularly in the classic category. On top of the newly acquired IP, it controls Saints Row, Goat Simulator, Dead Island, Metro, TimeSplitters, Borderlands, Darksiders, MX vs ATV, Kingdoms of Amalur, Satisfactory, Wreckfest, Insurgency and World War Z. For some of those like TimeSplitters, the company has promised new titles from the original developers.