Tech Check

EA's "Take" On My EA/Take-Two Post

In the midst of all this craziness on the market today, including Apple's turnaround, Google's plunge, and IBM's big news of a stock buyback and raised guidance, the news yesterday of the unsolicited bid from Electronic Arts for Take-Two Interactive seems, well, so yesterday.

Not the case. Electronic Arts  took issue with my post yesterday calling the company's $2 billion bid for the financially troubled and controversial publisher of the ultra-violent "Grand Theft Auto" game series "desperate." I got a phone call this morning from EA's chief financial officer Warren Jenson who makes the strong case for the deal, telling me, "We see ourselves as being anything but desperate. Nobody has a stronger portfolio of intellectual properties."

I asked him why EA would make a play for a company with such a checkered financial past that delves into the lowest nether-reaches of video game entertainment; a place that Electronic Arts hasn't been to before. A company so disparate to the EA model. Couple all that with a huge, 64 percent premium that EA is willing to spend, and concerns that its product pipeline may not be as fat as some analysts had hoped, and it smacked to me as a sign of desperation.

Nope, says Jenson. He says the mid-point of the company's revenues is up 25 percent, that "we're having our biggest year in the history of the company. Look at the holiday quarter, the biggest quarter in our history. Look at the titles, looking ahead to our pipelines, we have an incredibly strong slate of properties coming to market over the next 12 to 18 months."

So why do a deal with Take-Two? He calls the company a "subscale company in an industry where scale matters." He also calls "Grand Theft Auto" the "most important franchise in the video game industry today." He calls the game, and many other Take-Two titles "diamonds," and tells me that "what we're able to do is take those diamonds and plug them into what we do best: nurture great content and offer much stronger global publishing." And he says merging with EA could solve virtually all the issues that got Take-Two into so much trouble to begin with.

All good points, and I'm glad he called to share his perspective.

Questions?  Comments?