Activision Blizzard board accepts new Vivendi executive member

By Brenna Hillier, Tuesday, 16 October 2012 00:06 GMT

Vivendi SA chairman and CEO Jean-Francois Dubos has joined Activision Blizzard’s board of directors.

Although the appointment was announced today, Dubos took the role on October 12 following the resignation of former board member and Vivendi senior executive vice president of human resources Stephane Roussel on October 9.

Dubos was chosen by a cabal of Vivendi executives within Activision Blizzard’s core nominating committee; Vivendi holds the majority stake in Activision Blizzard.

The move is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, Dubos is new to the Vivendi CEO role, having taken over in July as the company struggles to extract itself from ongoing difficulties. Secondly, Vivendi’s relationship to Activision Blizzard has been the subject of much speculation over the last year.

Vivendi, a French multinational with a diverse range of interests and assest of €55.719 billion as of 2011, completed its Activision merger in 2008, bringing Blizzard to the table to form the joint corporate body Activision Blizzard.

In November 2011, Vivendi sold off a portion of its stock in Activision Blizzard, reducing its stake to 60% and raising $427 million. The cash so gleaned was believed to have been used to prop up subsidiary Universal Music’s acquisition of EMI’s assets, but as the Eurozone collapse left the company in a credit drought, it may have been a ploy to keep Vivendi’s credit rating high.

As of March this year, Activision Blizzard was responsible for an upturn in Vivendi’s revenue, but despite the publisher’s continued strong performance, Vivendi continued to float the idea of reducing or even cutting its stake.

By late June, Vivendi was heavily rumoured to be trying to sell off the publisher completely, with analysts concerned that only a sudden MMO announce from Blizzard could keep investors committed to Activision Blizzard should its parent company decamp.

Industry analyst Michael Pachter said he believed no other company was well-positioned to make the purchase, but Microsoft was said to be sniffing around; eventually, trade rumour had Vivendi working with Goldman Sachs to sell its ATVI stock on the open market.

By the end of July, Vivendi was believed to have given up on the sale and begun considering other targets, but as recently as September, the struggling Vivendi was once more said to be thinking of putting the joint publisher up for grabs.

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