People across the gaming industry are adding to the calls for Activision-Blizzard’s Bobby Kotick to resign – or be removed.
As we’ve been covering, earlier this week the Wall Street Journal published an explosive new entry in the ongoing Activision-Blizzard sexual harassment and discrimination scandal, this round including accusations against CEO Bobby Kotick himself. Kotick reportedly threatened to have an assistant killed and withheld multiple incidents and lawsuits at Activision from stockholders; the report also revealed that Jen Oneal has been paid less than her male co-lead during her three-month stint at the top of Blizzard, an injustice the company attempted to rectify only when she announced her resignation. The report has led Activision-Blizzard employees to walk out, calls from A Better ABK’s workers alliance for Kotick to go, and a group of shareholders to call for the removal of Kotick and two other board members.
We also saw Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO and PlayStation boss Jim Ryan tell his workers that he was “stunned” at the news, saying his team did “not believe [Activision-Blizzard’s] statements of response properly address the situation.”
Thus far, Kotick has deflected calls for his removal, and the ATVI board of directors issued a statement supporting him. Indeed, yesterday, Activision-Blizzard leadership led an all-hands meeting for workers, telling them essentially that Bobby Kotick’s new “zero-tolerance” policy would not be applied for his past behavior.
But today, we’ve seen renewed calls for Kotick’s ouster. Earlier this morning, over 500 Activision-Blizzard workers signed their names to a petition demanding Kotick’s resignation. For reference, the whole company employs close to 10,000 people. [Update: They’re over 1000 signatures now.]
“We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in the leadership of Bobby Kotick as the CEO of Activision Blizzard. The information that has come to light about his behaviors and practices in the running of our companies runs counter to the culture and integrity we require of our leadership–and directly conflicts with the initiatives started by our peers. We ask that Bobby Kotick remove himself as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and that shareholders be allowed to select the new CEO without the input of Bobby, who we are aware owns a substantial portion of the voting rights of the shareholders.”
Fans are being encouraged by the alliance to sign a separate petition:
We have had several people reaching out and asking what they can do to be an active supporter of ABK Worker's Alliance. As employees move to sign a petition calling for the removal of Bobby Kotick, we call for our supporters to sign a petition of their own
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 18, 2021
And now, Microsoft’s Phil Spencer has joined the melee. According to Bloomberg, Spencer told his staff that Microsoft is “disturbed and deeply troubled by the horrific events and actions” described in the article and that “this type of behavior has no place in our industry.” Here’s Bloomberg:
“But Spencer went a step further in saying he would take action. Xbox and PlayStation are among the video game industry’s biggest console manufacturers. Activision has a long history with the Xbox. The publisher’s largest franchise, Call of Duty, became successful largely due to Microsoft’s innovative online platform Xbox Live, which allows players to connect for multiplayer matches. Most of Activision’s games are published on Xbox consoles.”
Marketwatch notes that JPMorgan Chase cut its rating for ATVI stock from overweight to neutral specifically because of “uncertainty” over the Kotick situation. The company’s stock has fallen 10% this week and nearly a third over the last six months even as the S&P 500 has risen.