Wilkinson Stekloff Secures Denial of FTC Motion to Block Microsoft-Activision Blizzard Deal

Wilkinson Stekloff, led by Beth Wilkinson and Rakesh Kilaru, secured a groundbreaking victory for Microsoft, winning the second-biggest merger trial in American history.  

On June 12, 2023, the FTC filed a federal lawsuit to enjoin Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Just four weeks later, Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley denied the FTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that the Federal Trade Commission failed to make its case that the acquisition would substantially lessen competition in the gaming industry.  

Wilkinson Stekloff has served as litigation counsel for Microsoft since the day after the acquisition was announced, in January 2022. Over the following 18 months, the WS team led all aspects of litigation strategy, including developing the factual record and handling more than 40 depositions of company witnesses and experts.  

Just weeks before the transaction’s outside closing date of July 18, 2023, the FTC filed suit in the Northern District of California to enjoin the merger. Beth served as lead trial counsel in the five-day bench trial, delivering opening and closing arguments, cross-examining the FTC’s sole expert witness, and examining high-level executives from both Microsoft and Activision, including Activision CEO Bobby Kotick. Rakesh directed the legal strategy and examined several witnesses, including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Partners Kieran Gostin and Grace Hill and Counsel Anastasia Pastan also handled witnesses at trial, and Counsel Sarah Neuman played a key strategic role with the economic experts.

WS also directed the post-trial legal strategy, in which Microsoft defeated the FTC’s motions in the trial court and the district court to enjoin the transaction pending an appeal. 

The WS team worked alongside lawyers from Weil Gotshal, who served as worldwide regulatory counsel; Sidley Austin, who played a key role in the legal strategy and handled e-discovery; and Skadden, who served as counsel for Activision.