Kara Swisher, CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, Martha Stewart, and Barry Diller at CNBC’s “The Next 25” Gala in New York.
CNBC | Nbcuniversal | Getty Images
Entertainment mogul Barry Diller strongly denied the idea that he, his stepson, and longtime pal and fellow mogul David Geffen engaged in insider trading in what he claims was was “a lucky bet” on Activision Blizzard call options reportedly now under investigation by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Diller, Geffen and Diller’s stepson Alex von Furstenberg together made large bets on Activision stock shares just days before that videogame maker said it had agreed to be bought by Microsoft on Jan. 18, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday evening.
Activision shares and the value of those call options soared on public news of the deal.
Diller, who confirmed to The Journal that he had been contacted by regulators, in a statement to CNBC, said, “None of us had any knowledge from any person or any source or anything about a potential acquisition of Activision by Microsoft.”
“We acted simply on the belief that Activision was undervalued and therefore had the potential for going private or being acquired,” Diller said.
“And, if we had any such information we would never have traded on it – it strains credulity to believe we would have done so 3 days before Microsoft and Activision made their announcement.”
Diller had told The Journal, “It was simply a lucky bet.”
The trio have an “unrealized profit of about $ 60 million on the options trade, based on the recent Activision share price of around $ 80,” according to people familiar with the trades, The Journal reported.
The newspaper said that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe into whether the options trades were in violation of insider-trading laws, while the SEC is conducting a civil investigation of the same question.
The SEC declined to comment to CNBC, and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Geffen and Von Furstenberg, who is the son of Diller’s wife, the legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Microsoft declined to comment. Activision did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Diller is a member of the board of directors of Coca-Cola.
Last week, Activision Blizzard’s CEO Bobby Kotick said he would not stand for reelection as a director of Coke, saying he wanted to devote attention to the Microsoft deal.
– Additional reporting by Steve Kovach