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Activision hires Queen's former lawyer to lead appeal against CMA acquisition ruling

Pannick stations.

Artwork from Crash Bandicoot, Call of Duty, Tony Hawk, and Overwatch, displayed in four columns running left to right.
Image credit: Activision Blizzard

Activision Blizzard has reportedly hired high-profile UK lawyer Lord David Pannick KC - whose client list has included Queen Elizabeth II and Boris Johnson - to help lead its appeal against the Competition and Markets Authority's recent ruling against its proposed merger with Microsoft.

The CMA recently made the shock decision to block Microsoft's $68.7bn acquisition of Activision following its months-long investigation, citing concerns over the deal's impact on the cloud gaming sector, which it said risked "stifling competition in this growing market".

In response, Microsoft announced it would be appealing the CMA's decision, while Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick told staff the move would "stifle investment, competition, and job creation throughout the UK gaming industry", insisting "it is far from the final word on this deal".

Newscast: Where does Microsoft go next to get its Activision Blizzard deal done?Watch on YouTube

As both parties ready to fight the CMA's decision, FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller is reporting Activision Blizzard has hired the "ultra-high-profile" Lord David Pannick KC to lead the company's appeal, citing a "reliable source with connections in the legal community".

Pannick is considered one of the UK's top lawyers, with a client list that has included Queen Elizabeth II, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the Partygate scandal, Manchester City after it was accused of financial misconduct, and former BBC director-general Mark Thompson, when a Christian group attempted to prosecute the broadcaster for blasphemy after it aired Jerry Springer the Opera in 2005.

Mueller also highlights Microsoft's similarly high-profile hiring for its appeal, with the company set to be represented by Daniel Beard KC, described as "one of the Bar's leading specialists in competition, EU, regulatory and public law" in his Monckton Chamber's profile.

Appealing the CMA's decision will be a lengthy process for Microsoft and Activision; the UK's Competition Appeal Tribunal aims to deal with straightforward cases within nine months, and if the appeal is successful, it will return to the CMA for review, which will again take some time. As such, the appeal process could go on beyond this year, and that's without decisions from the US Federal Trade Commission and the EU's European Commission, both of which are still scrutinising the acquisition for themselves.