Cold Call distills Harvard Business School's legendary case studies into podcast form. Hosted by Brian Kenny, the podcast airs every two weeks and features Harvard Business School faculty discussing cases they've written and the lessons they impart.
How Will Gamers and Investors Respond to Microsoft’s Acquisition of Activision Blizzard?
In January 2022, Microsoft announced its acquisition of the video game company Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. The deal would make Microsoft the world’s third largest video game company, but it also exposes the company to several risks.
First, the all-cash deal would require Microsoft to use a large portion of its cash reserves. Second, the acquisition was announced as Activision Blizzard faced gender pay disparity and sexual harassment allegations. That opened Microsoft up to potential reputational damage, employee turnover, and lost sales.
Do the potential benefits of the acquisition outweigh the risks for Microsoft and its shareholders?
Planning the Future for Harlem’s Beloved Sylvia’s Restaurant
Sylvia’s Restaurant, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in August 2022, is a testament to the values instilled by the founder and matriarch, Sylvia Woods. She cultivated a strong community around her soul food restaurant in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood that has continued to thrive, even after her passing a decade ago. Amid business expansions and succession planning, the legacy of Sylvia Woods continues to live on. But as Sylvia’s grandson takes over the business, a new challenge faces him and his family: what should the next 60 years of Sylvia’s look like?
Marie Curie: A Case Study in Breaking Barriers
Marie Curie, born Maria Sklodowska from a poor family in Poland, rose to the pinnacle of scientific fame in the early years of the twentieth century, winning the Nobel Prize twice in the fields of physics and chemistry. At the time, women were simply not accepted in scientific fields. So Curie had to overcome enormous obstacles in order to earn a doctorate at the Sorbonne and perform her pathbreaking research on radioactive materials. How did she plan her time and navigate her life choices to leave a lasting impact on the world?
Chewy.com’s Make-or-Break Logistics Dilemma
In late 2013, Ryan Cohen, cofounder and then-CEO of online pet products retailer Chewy.com, was facing a decision that could determine his company’s future. Cohen was convinced that achieving scale would be essential to making the business work and he worried that the company’s third-party logistics provider (3PL) may not be able to scale with Chewy.com’s projected growth or maintain the company’s performance standards for service quality and fulfillment. But neither he nor his cofounders had any experience managing logistics, and the company’s board members were pressuring him to leave order fulfillment to the 3PL. What should Cohen do?
Corporate Governance and Growth Strategy at Capital SAFI
Asset management firm Capital SAFI wanted to attract new strategic investors and expand to other countries beyond Bolivia. Founder, chairman and CEO Jorge Quintanilla Nielsen knew that having the right corporate governance in place was critical to achieve this goal. The firm’s board had evolved over time, but would new investors be impressed by those measures or were additional improvements needed?
Larry Fink at BlackRock: Linking Purpose to Profit
In 2014, Larry Fink started writing letters to the leaders of some of the largest publicly listed companies, urging them to consider the importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. Fink is the chairman and CEO of BlackRock, one of the largest asset management houses in the world. The firm’s success was rooted in its cost-effective, passive investment products that rely on tracking indices and funds. But Fink wanted his firm to engage with the companies in which they invest and hold them accountable for their social and environmental impacts. What role should investors play in urging business leaders to take ESG issues more seriously and enforcing compliance?