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US probes possible insider trading in Activision Microsoft deal

"It was simply a lucky bet."

The US Justice Department and SEC are investigating potential insider trading connected to Microsoft's $69bn buyout Activision, the Wall St Journal has reported, and specifically the large bets placed on stock by three men, just days prior to the deal becoming public.

On 14th January, the men spent more than $100m on Activision stock options priced at just $40/share, underneath the company's then $63 price. In effect, they were already making a profit.

Four days later, on 18th February, Activision announced it was being bought in a deal worth $95/share. If and when this deal is ratified, the men stand to make more than $100m in profit.

Who are these men? There's former chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Barry Diller, music mogul and Dreamworks co-founder David Geffen, and socialite Alexander von Furstenberg, son of German Prince Egon von Fürstenberg. The trio are now being investigated as to how they knew each other, and what they may have known of Activision being acquired.

Barry Diller. Image credit: CNBC.

However, various details are already public. For example, it's interesting to note that billionaire Diller has served alongside controversial Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick for years as a board member at Coca-Cola.

Diller and Geffen have been lifelong friends, the WSJ reported, and previously worked together. As for von Fürstenberg - well, Diller is now married to his mum.

"It was simply a lucky bet," Diller told WSJ. "We acted on no information of any kind from anyone. It is one of those coincidences."

Microsoft and Activision declined to comment.

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Tom Phillips


Tom is Eurogamer's Editor-in-Chief. He writes lots of news, some of the puns and makes sure we put the accent on Pokémon. Tom joined Eurogamer in 2010 following a stint running a Nintendo fansite, and still owns two GameCubes. He also still plays Pokémon Go every day.