On Thursday, Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) stock jumped nearly 8% on at least two different catalysts. First, investors rejoiced when the video game juggernaut announced Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is officially the "biggest entertainment launch of the year." According to the release, Advanced Warfare has not only bested all other video games in terms of revenue in 2014, but also stands above all movies, music, and books launched so far this year.
Unsurprisingly, Activision stated Advanced Warfare is also the highest-selling digital launch in console history according to Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and its own internal estimates. All told, since Activision created the original Call of Duty in 2003, total franchise revenue has exceeded $10 billion worldwide.
Advanced Warfare is cool and all, but...
Activision's latest hit first-person shooter isn't its only new source of cash right now. According to a press release issued Wednesday after the market close, Activision also just reached an agreement to settle shareholder litigation stemming from its $8.2 billion purchase in October, 2013 of 88% of Vivendi's (OTC:VIVHY) stake in the company. Full terms of the settlement weren't disclosed, but the release does state, "multiple insurance companies, along with various defendants, will pay Activision Blizzard $275 million."
Keeping in mind that the settlement also admits no wrongdoing by any party, Activision also noted the October, 2013 transaction was approved by both its board of directors and Vivendi. Further, it elaborates, that approval followed a recommendation from a Special Committee of independent directors formed by Activision's board to negotiate the transaction on its behalf.
Finally, Activision's board of directors stated: "The transaction, structured through the efforts and significant personal investment of [Activision CEO] Bobby Kotick and [chairman of the board] Brian Kelly, has contributed to the creation of over $3 billion of value for shareholders. We are pleased to be able to put this matter to rest."
Why so serious?
Those seem to be strange words for a company about to enjoy a $275 million windfall. If Activision is on the winning side of this settlement, then why do those statements sound as though it's defending its actions?
In short, Activision wasn't the one that brought the suit in the first place. This was a shareholder derivative lawsuit, which essentially means it was brought by shareholders on behalf of Activision against the defendants.
In this case, Activision investors were irked that the initial deal -- which was unveiled in July, 2013 -- wasn't at least put to a shareholder vote, among other things. In fact, the deal was initially held up after a judge in Delaware Chancery Court agreed with the shareholder vote aspect. A month later, however, it proceeded as planned when that decision was overturned in Delaware Supreme Court.
However, the case seeking financial damages continued on, and ultimately culminated in this settlement to Activision's benefit. "We achieved in litigation what Activision should have negotiated as part of the deal," insisted Joel Friedlander, a lawyer for the shareholders, in an emailed statement.
Money isn't everything
Of course, this settlement wasn't all about the money: In addition to a global release of all claims against the defendants, several other terms disclosed in Activision's PR include corporate governance changes like adding two unaffiliated Activision directors, and an adjustment of voting rights. Activision will also pay "reasonable and customary fees and costs of the plaintiff's attorneys."
In any case, it seems clear Activision management would have preferred that shareholders simply rejoice in the tremendous value they unlocked by crafting this massive deal. It's also hard to argue with those shareholders and the courts; they both obviously agreed the deal wasn't quite good enough.