Vivendi creates video game giant
French conglomerate Vivendi is merging its video game unit, Blizzard Entertainment, with video-game maker Activision to form a company worth $18.9 billion. Vivendi will initially own 52 percent, then up to 68 percent, of the new company, called Activision Blizzard. (MarkteWatch) The deal brings under one firm Activison’s “Guitar Hero” and “Call of Duty” console game franchises and Blizzard’s popular online game “World of Warcraft.” The new company will challenge Electronic Arts’ pole position in the industry. “There is no more clear No. 1 and clear No. 2 company,” said Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pacther. “There are now two guys that are dominant.” (Bloomberg)
Morgan Stanley nabs land at discount
Homebuilder Lennar Corp. sold about 11,000 home sites for $525 million to a new venture mostly owned by Morgan Stanley. ( Lennar will own the 20 percent of the venture not held by Morgan Stanley’s real estate arm. The sites, in 32 areas all hit hard by the housing slump, had a book value of $1.3 billion on Sept. 30, indicating that “vulture” investors could increasingly be looking to grab land at fire-sale prices. “There is a lot of money out there right now trying to do deals like this,” said home-building consultant John Burns. “This sends a strong message that somebody is willing to part with land at a significant loss.” (The Wall Street Journal)
NBC buys programming blocks
NBC has reached a novel deal to buy at least two-hour blocks of prime-time programming from outside production houses. The outside programming will cost NBC a lot less than its own scripted and reality shows. The first deal is for back-to-back adventure documentary shows by Thom Beers, creator of “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers.” (The New York Times, free registration required) NBC Entertainment co-Chairman Ben Silverman, who backs the deal, is selling his own production company, Reveille, for more than $100 million. Reveille is now the largest supplier of projects to the studio. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)
Recycling nostalgia brands
Pinnacle Foods Corp. buys old, orphaned brands of packaged food and tries to breathe new life into them. Mrs. Butterworth syrup, Vlassic Pickles, Swanson TV dinners, and Lender’s Bagels are all back on the shelves, with a difference. Pinnacle’s business model depends on updating iconic brands for today’s tastes and diet, which means smaller portions and healthier options. And its sales are up 4 percent this year. “The basic strategy to revive old brands is never a bad one if the old ones were healthy and had good sales,” said Mintel analyst Marcia Mogelonsky. “A lot of Boomers probably missed those brands.” (AP in Los Angeles Times, free registration required)