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You might reasonably imagine that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s only interest in Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard for three decades, would relate to his stewardship (or lack thereof) of the games publisher’s now notoriously toxic workplace. You know, the one that drove its share price low enough to make it worth the risk to Microsoft, which agreed to buy the company. But no: Now, in addition to asking why Kotick did nothing about all of the sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination for so long—and, indeed, for longer than previously thought—it’s also curious about what he might have mentioned to his billionaire buddy, and what that billionaire buddy might have mentioned to his own billionaire buddy and stepson.

Federal prosecutors and securities regulators are investigating large bets that Barry Diller, Alexander von Furstenberg and David Geffen made on Activision Blizzard Inc. shares in January, days before the videogame maker agreed to be acquired by Microsoft Corp., according to people familiar with the matter…. Mr. Diller has served on the board of directors of Coca-Cola Co. with Activision Chief Executive Bobby Kotick…. Mr. Diller described Mr. Kotick as “a long time friend….”

Messrs. Diller and Geffen, entertainment-industry moguls who once worked together in the mail room at the William Morris agency, are longtime friends. In a lengthy profile of Mr. Diller published by Forbes in 2019, Mr. Geffen was quoted saying: “I’ve never seen him be anything but successful. To bet against him would be a fool’s errand.”

Diller, who is married to von Furstenberg’s mother, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, said it was all “simply a lucky bet” that has the three men in line for a $100 million payday should the Federal Trade Commission not fuck things up. JPMorgan Chase, which arranged the private $108 million deal for the Activision options, apparently wasn’t so sure.

JPMorgan reported the trades to law enforcement after the deal became public, the people said. Under the terms of a criminal settlement it reached in September 2020 related to market-manipulation claims, JPMorgan is required to disclose to law enforcement evidence or concerns about misconduct over the duration of the three-year agreement.

U.S. Probes Trade by Barry Diller, David Geffen Before Big Merger [WSJ]

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