Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has reportedly stated he will consider leaving the company if he cannot solve their issues “with speed.”
Activision Blizzard staff staged another walkout, calling for Kotick to be replaced amid fresh allegations. These include Kotick knowing about many incidents of abuse and failing to notify the board of directors or investors, and vouched to keep accused staff on board.
While leaving Blizzard Entertainment President J. Allen Brack was replaced by Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra; it was also recently claimed Oneal was paid less than Ybarra, and had been sexually harassed while at Activision. There were also allegations of Kotick’s own harassment.
In 2006 Kotick allegedly left a threatening voice mail to an assistant, saying he would have her killed. The matter was allegedly settled out of court, and a spokesperson stated he deeply regretted the “obviously hyperbolic and inappropriate” message.
Despite all this the board of directors issued a statement, confident that Kotick “appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention,” along with his “leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.” Shareholders, with a total of 4.8 million shares between them, called for Kotick to resign however, along with two directors of the board.
Led by the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) Investment Group, Executive Director Dieter Waizenegger stated they would likely be replaced by diverse directors, with at least one seat to go to an Activision Blizzard employee who is not an executive.
A petition calling for Kotick’s “removal” reached almost 1,800 signatures from staff across Activision Blizzard studios as of this time of writing. Both Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Jim Ryan and Head of Xbox Phil Spencer expressed their disgust at the alleged situation at Activision Blizzard, with Spencer stating they were “evaluating all aspects” of their relationship with them.
The Wall Street Journal now report that “according to people familiar with his comments” and plans, Kotick told senior managers in a meeting on November 19th that he would consider leaving Activision Blizzard if he could not solve the cultural problems at Activision Blizzard “with speed.” A company spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment to the Wall Street Journal.
This meeting was part of a series of internal meetings across the company last week, where Kotick and other company leaders met with employees. There they reportedly, according to those who were in the meetings, reaffirmed their commitment to improving working conditions at Activision Blizzard.
These meetings also included senior leaders from Activision and Blizzard Entertainment. Activision executives said during the online meeting that some employees would not be satisfied until Kotick resigned- prompting another apology from Kotick, and how he was ashamed with what had occured under him, and how he handled the situation.
Executives and human resources managers also held meetings online with employees, where employees asked if Kotick’s recently announced zero-tolerance policy on harassment applied to him, and his alleged past behavior. Others also asked if Kotick would resign. Managers in some meetings said they did not have answers to those questions.
Activision Blizzard’s board of director’s is reportedly considering making a “workplace excellence committee” to oversee the proposed steps to improve the company’s culture; but are not investigating allegations against Kotick.
Nonprofit group Girls Who Code, promoting female computing careers, also announced they were ending their three-year partnership with Activision Blizzard. This program included a Summer Immersion Program for high-school girls. “We cannot in good conscience continue to work with a company that is so antithetical to our own values,” the group stated.
As previously reported, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) concluded a two year investigation. Their findings lead to a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for “frat boy” style sexual harassment; possibly leading to one woman committing suicide on a company trip. Other claims include discrimination by women being paid less, promoted less frequently, and after longer periods of time.
While initially dismissed by Activision Blizzard as including “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” and “factually incorrect, old and out of context,” almost 1,000 current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter condemning the response as “abhorrent and insulting.” Staff led the first walkout soon after.
Kotick stated that the company’s initial response was “tone deaf,” and announced they were bringing in law firm WilmerHale to conduct an immediate review of their policies and procedures. While announcing third party evaluations, diverse hiring, and removing references to accused developers from their games; employees were dissatisfied with the response for not addressing their demands.
An “alliance” of Activision Blizzard staff also rejected WilmerHale as the third party auditing the company. This was due to an alleged conflict of interest, the law firms alleged “history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action,” and being led by Stephanie Avakian; allegedly specializing in “protecting the wealthy and powerful.”
Claims from temporary workers were added to the lawsuit; along with allegations of Activation Blizzard destroying documents relating to employees and pay.
After an $18 million USD settlement deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the DFEH objected for it being too lenient, and would hinder their own case as relevant documents were proposed to be destroyed. However, the EEOC claimed there was a conflict of interest thanks to two DFEH attorneys having worked for the EEOC; putting both cases in jeopardy.
Most recently and as aforementioned, Kotick announced a zero-tolerance harassment policy and diverse hiring goals for the company; while also reducing his own compensation to its legal minimum. This was prior to the new allegations, including those made against him.