Controversial ActiBlizz exec Frances Townsend moves roles to ‘senior counsel’ to Bobby Kotick


It’s always good to try to hide your corporate-level shenaniganry late on a Friday, but that’s pretty much what Activision Blizzard did in announcing that chief compliance officer Frances Townsend stepped down from her position, though she won’t be leaving the company.

Readers may remember Townsend from the very start of ActiBlizz’s sexual harassment scandal following the internal memo that claimed the California DFEH’s lawsuit “presented a distorted and untrue” picture of the company – a letter that we later learned was written by CEO Bobby Kotick himself and issued under Townsend’s name.

Townsend drew more fire for her actions on Twitter, when she retweeted an article that demonized corporate whistleblowers, blocked striking members of Blizzard’s workforce on the platform, and ultimately deleted her account.

A copy of an internal email sent by Kotick announces Townsend’s departure from her role but also confirms she won’t be leaving the company, moving instead to “a new role as senior counsel to [Kotick] and the board of directors.” The letter also confirms senior vice president of ethics and compliance Jen Brewer will fill Townsend’s role, alongside senior vice president of corporate governance Luci Altman.

“Fran did a truly exceptional job – actually four jobs – with continuously increasing responsibilities and the most exemplary work ethic,” reads part of the email. “She tirelessly and successfully navigated a challenging time for the Company with leadership, conviction, and grace.”

Activision-Blizzard is considered a controversial gaming company owing to a long string of scandals over the last few years, including the Blitzchung boycott, mass layoffs, labor disputes, and executive pay fiasco. In 2021, the company was sued by California for fostering a work environment rife with sexual harassment and discrimination, the disastrous corporate response to which compounded Blizzard’s ongoing pipeline issues and the widespread perception that its online games are in decline. Multiple state and federal agencies are investigating the company as employees unionize and call for Bobby Kotick’s resignation. As of 2022, the company is being acquired by no less than Microsoft.
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