Federal Court Judge Overrides FTC, Approves Microsoft’s $69 Billion Acquisition of Video Game Publisher Activision Blizzard

A federal court judge in San Francisco July 11 approved Microsoft’s $69 billion deal to purchase video game publisher Activision Blizzard. The decision circumvents efforts by the Federal Trade Commission to block the deal, citing consumer protections.

But in her ruling, U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley dismissed those concerns as immaterial.

“For the reasons explained, the court finds the FTC has not shown a likelihood it will prevail on its claim this particular vertical merger in this specific industry may substantially lessen competition,” Corley wrote in the decision. “To the contrary, the record evidence points to more consumer access to Call of Duty and other Activision content. The motion for a preliminary injunction is therefore denied.”

Corley’s decision, following a five-day trial, comes just days before a proposed July 18 termination deadline for the deal was to come due.

Michael Pachter, media analyst with Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, said that while any emergency appeal by the FTC would likely be denied, the deal still has to be structured to satisfy the U.K. regulators concerned about Microsoft/Activision operations in the U.K., and should still close by next Tuesday.

“The FTC can sue for divestiture, but Activision shareholders will get paid [a $3 billion termination fee],” Pachter said in an email.