Activision Blizzard deal: Microsoft hires Boris Johnson’s partygate lawyer for appeal


Microsoft has appointed Lord Pannick KC to helm its appeal against the CMA’s decision to block its acquisition of Activision Blizzard.


Microsoft has brought out the big guns in its latest attempt to drive through the acquisition of Activision Blizzard. The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) blocked the takeover of Activision Blizzard on 26th April, citing concerns that the deal would give Microsoft a dominant position in the emerging cloud gaming market. Microsoft vowed to appeal the decision, and the company has now appointed a legal heavyweight to spearhead its efforts.

Lord David Pannick KC (which stands for King’s Counsel) is probably most well known for being the barrister who advised former UK prime minister Boris Johnson in his defence against the ‘partygate’ scandal. Johnson faced a grilling from the House of Commons privileges committee over the affair, where he was accused of holding parties at 10 Downing Street in the midst of Covid lockdowns.

Lord Pannick has had a high-profile career, with clients including Queen Elizabeth II and former BBC director-general Mark Thompson, who he advised when the BBC was accused of blasphemy for broadcasting Jerry Springer: The Opera. Diana, Princess of Wales, Formula 1 head Max Mosley and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are just a few of his notable former clients.

Lord Pannick’s services don’t come cheap, however. He is reputed to charge around £5,000 an hour, and he received nearly £130,000 for his work on the partygate affair.

Microsoft has also appointed top competition barrister Daniel Beard KC to work on its appeal against the CMA. Clearly, the firm isn’t messing about when it comes to this all-important appeal, which could make or break the Activision Blizzard deal. However, Microsoft might face an uphill battle to win its case: as games lawyer Anna Poulter-Jones pointed out in our in-depth analysis, “The CMA tends to come out on top in appeals.”

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