Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack is stepping down ahead of today’s investor call

Meanwhile, Acti-Blizz workers push back against WilmerHale

    
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J. Allen Brack is out at Blizzard today ahead of the investor call this afternoon, replaced by a pair of co-leaders. Activision-Blizzard President and COO Daniel Alegre announced the news to the company this morning.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra have been appointed co-leaders of Blizzard. Jen and Mike will share responsibility for development and operational accountability for the company. Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards.”

Oneal is the former head of Vicarious Visions and the EVP of Development at Blizzard overseeing Diablo and Overwatch, while Ybarra was an XBOX exec brought in as EVP and GM of Platform and Tech at Blizzard overseeing Battlenet and so forth.

“J. Allen Brack is leaving the company to pursue new opportunities,” the press release says, but the message on the Blizzard website includes two sentences from Brack himself.

“I am confident that Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra will provide the leadership Blizzard needs to realize its full potential and will accelerate the pace of change. I anticipate they will do so with passion and enthusiasm and that they can be trusted to lead with the highest levels of integrity and commitment to the components of our culture that make Blizzard so special.”

Brack had taken over for Mike Morhaime as head of Blizzard back in 2018, and his reign has been a tumultuous one thanks to the Blitzchung fiasco in 2019.

His sudden departure won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s been following the news in the last 14 days, as Bobby Kotick had already made it clear that he would ensure heads that were not his would roll over the California sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit that has consumed the industry since July and prompted a walkout at Blizzard last week.

Gamers will be supporting the victims and workers by protesting on social media this afternoon.

Further reading:

Source: Press release, official site. Cheers, Newsie.
Update
On the news.

However, Activision-Blizzard’s Fran Townsend, whose ghastly, combative memo denying wrongdoing provoked the uprising within Blizzard, will apparently hold on to her job for some reason.

Update
Dexerto is reporting that T-Mobile appears to have pulled out of its sponsorship of Overwatch League and Call of Duty League over the last weekend. “[T]he T-Mobile logo seems to have been taped over on players’ jerseys, while the brand was removed from all broadcast segments and from the CDL’s website,” the site notes, including screenshots of the before and after on the esports’ websites. “Additionally, this seems to have also happened for Activision’s sister league, the OWL.”
Update
Blizzard workers have now more forcefully rejected Bobby Kotick’s letter from last week, as detailed in a letter penned by The ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) and posted on IGN. They’ve specifically rejected the choice of WilmerHale.

To CEO Bobby Kotick and the Activision Blizzard executive leadership team,

We are The ABK Workers Alliance, an organized group of current Activision Blizzard, Inc. employees committed to defending our right to a safe and equitable workplace. That right remains endangered as the stories of abuse and mistreatment continue to grow in scope, and new accounts of harassment perpetrated by current Activision Blizzard employees have continued to emerge since the publication of the DFEH’s lawsuit.

Last week, we took collective action to demand better working conditions for women and other marginalized groups at Activision Blizzard King (ABK) by writing an open letter signed by more than 3,000 current employees. We organized the #ActiBlizzWalkout at Blizzard Entertainment’s Irvine headquarters where more than 500 workers walked out and hundreds more participated virtually around the world.

Our request for action crosses studio lines, including workers from Activision, Beenox, Blizzard Entertainment, High Moon Studios, Infinity Ward, King, Sledgehammer Games, Raven Software, and Vicarious Visions. Our goal is for the executive leadership team to address their response to the California DFEH lawsuit, acknowledge the reality of working conditions across our organization, and commit to meaningful change at Activision Blizzard.

We communicated a list of four demands aimed at protecting our most vulnerable workers. These are: (1) an end to forced arbitration in employment agreements, (2) the adoption of inclusive recruitment and hiring practices, (3) increases in pay transparency through compensation metrics, and (4) an audit of ABK policies and practices to be performed by a neutral third-party. Importantly, we demanded that this third party be selected by an employee-led Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force.

In response to our demands, you wrote a letter to employees expressing a commitment to doing a better job of listening. You said you would do everything possible to work with employees in improving our workplace. And yet, the solutions you proposed in that letter did not meaningfully address our requests. You ignored our call for an end to mandatory arbitration. You did not commit to adopting inclusive recruitment and hiring practices. You made no comment on pay transparency.

One of our demands, a third-party audit of ABK practices and policies, was ostensibly addressed by your decision to hire WilmerHale to conduct an internal review. While we commend the idea of hiring a third-party firm to perform an internal review, The ABK Workers Alliance cannot support the choice of WilmerHale as an impartial reviewer.

We reject the selection of WilmerHale for the following reasons:

● WilmerHale’s pre-existing relationships with Activision Blizzard and its executives create an unacceptable conflict of interest.

○ Activision Blizzard has already been a client of WilmerHale, who you used to dispute the Diverse Candidate Search Policy proposed by the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund and UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust [1] earlier in 2021.

○ Frances Townsend is known to have relationships with multiple partners at WilmerHale, including former FBI Director Robert Mueller [2].

● WilmerHale has a history of discouraging workers’ rights and collective action. ○ WilmerHale states on their public website that their services include “advising on union awareness and avoidance” [3].

○ WilmerHale used anti-collective action tactics in their work with Amazon & Uber [4]. ○ In media portrayals, WilmerHale is regularly referred to as a “Union Busting Firm” [5, 6, 7]. We are already seeing the effects of this ideology in actions that leadership has taken to restrict our freedom of association since last week, including reducing the size of listening sessions and limiting access to those sessions.

● The WilmerHale partner leading this investigation, Stephanie Avakian, specializes in protecting the wealthy and powerful.

○ WilmerHale outlined Avakian’s work as: “…counseling and defending financial institutions, public and private companies, hedge funds, accounting firms, investment advisors, boards, corporate executives, and individuals facing regulatory and criminal investigations and litigation with the government [8].”

○ In Stephanie’s speech highlighting her successes with the SEC, all of her significant examples included achievements in favor of investors, retail clients, and customers, but does not once mention employees or laborers [9]. We need legal representation that centers on the concerns of our current employees, rather than investors.

We call on you and your executive leadership team to do better, and to fully address our list of demands. We will not abandon our cause. Our ranks continue to grow across multiple Activision Blizzard studios. While there are structural problems that only you can address, we are already taking steps to improve our workplace through a number of employee-driven initiatives:

● Worker-to-Worker Mentorship: We are building a mentorship program where workers can seek career advice, support, and sponsorship from a network of colleagues in a safe external channel outside company communication networks.

● Open Listening Sessions: We will host listening sessions that will be recorded and disseminated across the organization to facilitate ongoing conversation, education, and emotional support for employees.

● Community Meetings: We will facilitate monthly employee meetings, in a secure external channel, to discuss our concerns, desires, and progress toward achieving our goals. All current ABK employees are welcome to participate in these conversations.

As these actions show, we love our studios and care deeply for our colleagues. We share your expressed unwavering commitment to improving our company together.

We are doing what we can, and we call on you to do what we cannot.

Sincerely,

The ABK Workers Alliance

Twitter: @ABetterABK

With thanks to Stefan and Winterskorn.

Update
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mylin1
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mylin1

Class action against blizzard now from the investors saying they failed to disclose the investigation. It’s not only against the company but CEO and CFO by the look of things.

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draugris

Good, get rid of all of the people who directly or indirectly protected the predators and get rid of the predators also. Start over, let the employees organize in unions, build an enjoyable workplace where creativity can bloom again. In Germany we have an award every year for employers that’s called “Best place to work”, i don’t know if there is something like that in the US too but i would like Blizzard to win that in the future.

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Jack Pipsam

As someone who follows Xbox stuff I do remember Mike Ybarra popping up quite a bit in different videos and his Twitter was the typical wanna’be-like-us which a lot of the Xbox bigwigs on Twitter do, by sharing antidotes about his night playing Destiny or sharing trailers for indie games etc (in fact taking a quick look he still tweets more about Xbox than Blizzard). Can’t really tell you much about the guy, he never really left an impression beyond just another Xbox dude who appears when he needs to publicly, no idea what he actually did behind the scenes for good or bad.
Potentially it could be good for Blizzard to have someone who rooted in Blizzard’s history taking up the spot, but also really it should a have been someone from within Blizzard who was either a victim or someone who really was trying to be a change for good.

Not that any of that is the key objective, Blizzard now will be even more under the control of Activision than ever before.

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Slaasher

“but also really it should a have been someone from within Blizzard who was either a victim or someone who really was trying to be a change for good”

It should be the person most qualified for the job (yes, taking into account their current issues). Anyone else is just dumb.
But companies make dumb choices all the time.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Hahahahah.

They have a lawyer, and a good one.

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Cluedo86

When will Bobby get the boot?

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SmiteDoctor

.

kotickbrack.jpg
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Armsman

^^^
The problem with your cartoon is that I don’t believe he was ever ‘sweating’ said decision as depicted in the bottom panel…he probably pounded/couldn’t hit the “Sacrifice…” button fast enough.

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Bryan Correll

The first button probably doesn’t even exist. And the second is probably surrounded by a dial with various names. And can be set to random if desired.

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Ken from Chicago

The cartoon is a about a *fantasy* MMO exec 👍🤣

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SmiteDoctor

He’s sweating because he sprinkled too much cocaine on his cereal this morning.

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zoward

So he got a $175 million golden parachute to fall on his sword. He knew it was a hot mess and the clock was ticking when he took over. The didn’t sack him for Blitzcheung because they were saving him for this.

I really need to stop reading stories about Blizzard now – it’s starting to affect my outlook on life.

Aldristavan
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Aldristavan

Where are you getting $175 million from? Maybe I missed it.

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zoward

Saw it in a similar story on Ars Technica, but it wasn’t sourced. Asked for a source in the column’s comments, will update this if it appears.

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maydrock .

Can we take a poll on when the “pursue new opportunities” starts asking for money?

My guess is going with the 300 to 400 day mark.

Frakin douchebag!

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traja

When looking at stocks I have learned that you should never focus solely on the company in question. When you do that you become blind to overall market swings. Even then there is a downward trend to Activision Blizzard and it is maybe accelerating now. It would be very good for the future because it would mean that a scandal like this has serious consequences for the one thing that a corporation cares about.

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Bruno Brito

“Take his gold, and toss this fucker on the anchor” – Elite Troop