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Activision Blizzard’s ex-CEO Bobby Kotick reportedly wants to buy TikTok

He’s pitched the idea to potential partners including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, The Wall Street Journal reports.

REUTERS / Reuters

Bobby Kotick, the former CEO of Activision Blizzard who stepped down at the end of last year, is apparently interested in buying TikTok as a new bill in the US threatens to ban the app or force its sale. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Kotick mentioned the idea of partnering on such a purchase to OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and others seated with him at a conference dinner last week, and brought it up with ByteDance Executive Chair Zhang Yiming. If TikTok is sold, the WSJ notes, it would likely go for hundreds of billions of dollars.

Kotick led Activision for over 30 years but didn’t exactly leave on a good note. The company has faced multiple lawsuits in recent years, including one it settled with the California Civil Rights Department over alleged pay discrimination in December. In 2021, Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout and demanded Kotick resign, but that didn’t happen. Kotick ultimately stayed on as head of Activision Blizzard until the completion of Microsoft’s acquisition in 2023.

Kotick’s alleged interest in TikTok comes at a tumultuous moment for the immensely popular platform after lawmakers introduced the “Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act” last week, which President Biden said he would sign, if it passes. Under the bill, which goes to the House floor on Wednesday for a vote, TikTok’s China-based parent company, ByteDance, would have to sell the app within six months. Otherwise, it’ll be banned from US app stores.

TikTok has been trying to get its millions of US users to rally behind it in wake of the bill’s sudden momentum, and sent out push notifications last week asking users to call their representatives. After the House vote, where it’s expected to be approved after clearing the Energy and Commerce Committee in a unanimous vote last week, the bill would move on to the Senate. While lawmakers’ concerns about TikTok center on fears of data privacy and its connection to China, WSJ notes that involving Altman in its purchase could open the app up to the possibility of being used by OpenAI to train its AI models, which doesn't exactly sound ideal for users, either.

Update, March 22 2024, 12:59PM ET: This article has been updated to clarify the nature of Activision’s settlement with the CRD, and to remove a reference to an unrelated allegation about former CEO Bobby Kotick. While the CRD lawsuit initially included allegations that Activision fostered sexual harassment, the CRD in January filed an amendment withdrawing these claims, and the publicly-filed settlement agreement stated: “No court or any independent investigation has substantiated any allegations that: there has been systemic or widespread sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard; … or that Activision Blizzard’s Board of Directors, including its Chief Executive Officer, Robert Kotick, acted improperly with regard to the handling of any instances of workplace misconduct.”

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