Microsoft Chairman Brad Smith to meet with FTC bigwigs over $69 billion Activision deal: sources

Microsoft Chairman Brad Smith to meet with FTC bigwigs over $69 billion Activision deal: sources

Mr. Smith is heading to Washington – and the hope is to secure federal clearance for Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision.

Microsoft Chairman Brad Smith plans to meet with the three Democratic members of the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to stop the tech giant’s blockbuster video game deal from being scrapped for antitrust reasons, The Post has learned.

Smith and a small group of his attorneys are due to meet individually with FTC Chair Lina Khan — who is said to be skeptical of the tie-up and who pledged this summer to review the deal for its impact on workers — as well as the commissioners Democrats Rebecca Slaughter and Alvaro Bedoya, according to sources close to the situation.

On Sunday, The Post exclusively reported that at least one Democrat on the four-member panel had recently taken a sympathetic view on the merger – with insiders speculating it could be Slaughter – potentially paving the way for his approval. Republican FTC Commissioner Christine Wilson has already expressed support for the deal.

FTC President Lina Khan
Smith and a small group of his lawyers are to meet individually with FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan, who is said to be skeptical of the tie-up.
Getty Images

Sources said Microsoft’s Smith was trying to win over the powerful panel quickly – in part because Khan is pregnant and due to go on maternity leave next month.

“Chairman Khan is expecting a baby in January and will be taking a short parental leave before quickly returning to her duties,” said FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar. “The suggestion that possible enforcement action by the Commission might be affected by her pregnancy is sexist and absurd speculation with no basis in reality.”

FTC commissioners are scheduled for a closed meeting Thursday to discuss the merger and there’s an outside chance they could vote on it, sources said.

The panel could also meet to vote on the deal later this month. Microsoft believed the FTC would issue a final ruling in the first quarter of 2023, but the FTC’s review recently progressed at a faster pace than expected, the source said.

An Activision spokesperson declined to comment. Microsoft also declined to comment.

Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty
Microsoft is now offering rival Sony a 10-year license agreement for Activision games, including “Call of Duty” on its PlayStation consoles.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sources said Smith – who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Monday arguing for the deal – will point out that Microsoft is now offering rival Sony a 10-year licensing deal for Activision games, including “Call of Duty” on its PlayStation consoles. , and that the games would be released to them at the same time they became available on Microsoft’s Xbox.

Sony’s concern is that Microsoft, by owning a top console maker and popular video game maker, might have too much market power.

Separately this week, the Communications Workers of America said they support the deal as news broke that 300 workers at Microsoft games studio ZeniMax are voting this month to form Microsoft’s first union.

Activision Blizzard panel
Microsoft has agreed to buy Activision Blizzard for $69 billion.
Future publication via Getty Images

CWA said the merger would give Microsoft and Activision Blizzard workers a clear path to collective bargaining and unionization in what it sees as a major Microsoft concession. The politically influential union says the deal is good for workers and they will be hurt if the FTC takes legal action to block the merger.

As reported by The Post, a fellow Democrat backing the Microsoft deal could create a difficult path to block the deal for FTC Chairman Khan — who insiders say saw Microsoft’s deal as a target. major as it sought to restore its credentials as a High Tech trustbuster.

Indeed, a 2-2 vote would not only fail to block the deal, but would also result in its approval without any major conditions imposed by a settlement, including the concessions it recently promised to Sony.

FTC staff were reportedly close to recommending a lawsuit to block the deal, but that would have been before Microsoft launched its settlement offer.

Microsoft agreed to pay $95 per share for Activision. Its shares were trading Tuesday at $76.11

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