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

Activision Blizzard has employed authorized heavyweight Lord David Pannick KC, whose current instances embody Boris Johnson’s “partygate” probe, to guide its battle in opposition to the UK competitors regulator’s choice to dam its $75bn take care of Microsoft.

Pannick of Blackstone Chambers, described by a authorized information as an “undisputed chief on the bar”, will symbolize the creator of the hit online game Name of Obligation in its authorized problem on the Competitors Enchantment Tribunal, in accordance with individuals conversant in the rent.

The hiring comes two weeks after the Competitors and Markets Authority delivered a probably deadly blow to the blockbuster takeover by concluding that it might hand Microsoft an unfair benefit within the nascent cloud gaming market.

Bobby Kotick, chief govt of California-based Activision, final month vowed to battle to conclude the deal, calling the CMA’s choice an indication that the UK was “clearly closed for enterprise”. Microsoft president Brad Smith warned that the transfer “discourages expertise innovation and funding” within the nation.

Activision’s choice to herald Pannick, extensively seen as one of many high barristers of his era with former shoppers together with Queen Elizabeth II, is an indication of how severely it’s taking the risk that the UK’s intervention might kill its hopes of finishing the video games trade’s biggest-ever deal.

Pannick represented businesswoman Gina Miller in her two seminal Brexit-related victories in opposition to the UK authorities, notably in 2019 when the Supreme Court docket declared Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was illegal.

The barrister, who has been a crossbench peer since 2008, went on to advise Johnson final yr over partygate, when the Home of Commons privileges committee investigated unlawful events held at Downing Avenue throughout Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

In a profession spanning greater than 4 a long time, Pannick has additionally represented shoppers as assorted because the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, businessman Roland “Tiny” Rowland, former Method 1 boss Max Mosley, pornography distributors Sheptonhurst Ltd, and Diana, Princess of Wales. In 2003, he acted for Queen Elizabeth, successful an injunction in opposition to the Each day Mirror newspaper after a reporter posed as a Buckingham Palace footman.

Educated at Hertford Faculty, Oxford earlier than qualifying as a barrister in 1979, Pannick is recognised for his dealing with of high-level instances in UK and worldwide regulation.

The newest Chambers UK authorized information describes him as an “excellent public regulation silk”, identified for dealing with the “most important excessive profile human rights instances earlier than home, European and worldwide courts” over the previous 20 years.

He represented the UK authorities final yr because it received a judicial assessment problem over its plan to take away asylum seekers to Rwanda, which the Excessive Court docket dominated was lawful. The case is being appealed.

Blackstone Chambers didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Pannick’s appointment follows Microsoft hiring Daniel Beard KC, a high competitors barrister, to helm its personal authorized case over the deal, the Telegraph reported final week.

Microsoft and Activision will act as unbiased events of their appeals to the CAT, as they await selections on the deal in Europe and the US. The European Fee is anticipated to challenge its personal report as quickly as subsequent week.

The UK’s CAT shall be tasked with figuring out whether or not the CMA’s choice was lawful by analysing the company’s decision-making procedures, which authorized specialists say units a excessive bar for challenges such that by Microsoft and Activision. Fb mother or father Meta final yr didn’t overturn the CMA’s ruling that it should promote Giphy, the image-sharing service, unwinding a $315mn deal.

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