Activision Blizzard hires legal heavyweight to fight UK’s block of Microsoft deal

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Activision Blizzard, the creator of popular video games like Call of Duty, has hired Lord David Pannick KC, a well-known legal heavyweight, to lead its fight against the UK competition regulator’s decision to block its $75bn deal with Microsoft.

The hiring of Pannick, who has been described as an “undisputed leader at the bar”, came just two weeks after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard on the grounds that it would give Microsoft an unfair advantage in the nascent cloud gaming market.

Activision Blizzard Microsoft deal
The hiring of David Pannick KC comes just weeks after the Competition and Markets Authority blocked Microsoft’s $75bn acquisition of Activision Blizzard © Aaron Chown/PA

Activision Blizzard’s decision to hire Pannick, who has previously represented high-profile clients such as Queen Elizabeth II and businesswoman Gina Miller in her Brexit-related victories, demonstrates the gaming company’s determination to challenge the CMA’s decision. Pannick’s role will be to represent Activision Blizzard in its legal challenge at the Competition Appeal Tribunal.

The appointment of Pannick follows Microsoft’s decision to hire Daniel Beard KC, another top competition barrister, to lead its own legal case over the deal. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard will act as independent parties in their appeals to the CAT, as they await decisions on the deal in Europe and the US.

The European Commission is expected to issue its own report on the deal as soon as next week. The UK’s CAT will be tasked with determining whether the CMA’s decision was lawful by analysing the agency’s decision-making procedures, which legal experts say sets a high bar for challenges such as those by Microsoft and Activision Blizzard.

Activision Blizzard CEO, Bobby Kotick, has vowed to fight to conclude the deal, describing the CMA’s decision as a sign that the UK was “clearly closed for business”. Microsoft president Brad Smith also warned that the move “discourages technology innovation and investment” in the country. Activision Blizzard’s decision to bring in Pannick, who is recognised for his handling of high-level cases in UK and international law, underscores the company’s determination to challenge the CMA’s decision and complete the games industry’s biggest-ever deal.

Overall, this hiring by Activision Blizzard demonstrates the company’s commitment to fighting for the deal with Microsoft. With Pannick leading the legal challenge, the gaming company may be able to convince the courts to overturn the CMA’s decision, paving the way for the completion of the $75bn deal.

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