Activision Blizzard Employees Urge CEO Bobby Kotick To Resign Following New Report
A lengthy new batch of claims has now added new fuel to the fire that is the ongoing Activision Blizzard saga. As the company faces multiple lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and discrimination, several longstanding positions vacated, and two flagship releases delayed, company CEO Bobby Kotick is now under fire after a recent report from the Wall Street Journal alleged a myriad of new wrongdoings under the leader, including that Kotick knew of toxic workplace conditions years beforehand and even tried to sweep some under the rug.
In the days since the report was published, many voices from throughout the gaming industry, including former employees, and even company shareholders, have called for CEO Bobby Kotick to be replaced as Activision Blizzard CEO. Now, hundreds of workers from the company have put forth an official petition (via The Washington Post) urging the swift removal of Kotick and that “shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without the input of Bobby.” Posted earlier today, the petition has already climbed past 1,300 employee signatures, alongside over 10,000 non-employees with a petition of their own.
Over 4,000 non-employees have signed this petition in solidarity with us calling for the removal of Bobby Kotick. Please keep signing and sharing! If it gets to 5,000 signatures, it is more likely to be picked up by local news. https://t.co/1ZNGC9HPou
— ABetterABK ? ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 18, 2021
The new initiative comes from the ABK Workers Alliance shortly after they held a walkout for employees this past November 16th, protesting Bobby Kotick and calling for a new Activision Blizzard CEO. Attracting 150 employees, this was the second mass gathering organized by the group following another large-scale walkout back in July, which was held to protest the shocking claims made by the then-fresh Activision Blizzard lawsuit as well as the very poor response issued by those in leadership positions.
This new bout of protests is in response to several recent claims made against Bobby Kotick, as newly revealed employee interviews and internal documents divulged by the Wall Street Journal detail some scathing allegations against Activision and the CEO. As per the publication, an unnamed Sledgehammer Games employee was said to have experienced sexual assault from her supervisor on two occasions in 2016 and 2017, with the incidents eventually settling out of court after being submitted to the HR department.
Bobby Kotick is alleged to have known about these claims beforehand and even opted to hide the assault claims and subsequent settlement from the company board of directors. Reports also indicate the CEO may have played a role in keeping some accused personnel out of the spotlight, most notably when harassment allegations were aimed at longtime co-head of Treyarch Dan Bunting in 2017. Kotick was described as protecting the employee after an internal investigation recommended that he be fired. However, it appears Bunting has now left Activision as a result of WSJ’s inquiries.
Another claim against Kotick recalls a situation from 2006 where the CEO fatally threatened an employee in a voicemail, alleging that he would arrange to have her murdered. As part of the report, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson commented on the matter, expressing Kotick has long felt regret over the “hyperbolic exaggeration” heard during the call. “Mr. Kotick quickly apologized 16 years ago for the obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate voice mail,” the statement read. “And he deeply regrets the exaggeration and tone in his voice mail to this day.”
These new protests and allegations arrive only weeks after Kotick took a large pay cut and laid out a series of workplace-positive measures dedicated to a more “inclusive” environment. However, the message of these commitments may now ring a bit more hollow, especially as other leaders have been fired for perpetuating toxic workplace conditions in the past. This news also happens shortly after former Blizzard co-president Jen Oneal notably vacated her leadership role, but the WSJ report asserted there was much more to her story.
Rather than simply leaving Activision Blizzard to pursue her efforts in the “diversity, equity, and diversity space,” the report also highlighted several negative experiences Oneal faced while part of the company, including her own encounter with sexual harassment and, via IGN, the fact that she was paid much less than her co-studio lead, Mike Ybarra, despite holding equal positions. According to a legal complaint acquired by WSJ, this kind of behavior is was reportedly contributed to Oneal parting ways, because “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.”
After the initial report went live, Activision Blizzard was quick to issue a response, dismissing the report as a “misleading view” of Activision and CEO Bobby Kotick. “Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon,” the statement read. “The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their – and our – values.”
“The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart,” Activision Blizzard continued. “Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
The Activision Blizzard board of directors extended a similar message standing by Kotick, expressing they “remain confident” with the CEO in charge. “The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry,” the statement read. “Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent.”
The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.”
What do you think? Are you shocked to see such serious claims levied against Bobby Kotick, or are you unsurprised by anything going on at Activision Blizzard at this point? Do you think the efforts to remove Kotick as CEO will actually prove fruitful? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter and Facebook to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day!
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Eric Hall2690 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.