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The situation at Activision Blizzard continues to develop following yesterday’s report of fresh revelations against the company. Now some of the company’s shareholders have joined with several of its employees calling for the resignation of its CEO, Bobby Kotick. Others are responding to the allegations from the company, including PlayStation boss Jim Ryan.
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a report bringing to light several new allegations of workplace misconduct, sexual harassment and assault, and discrimination at the game publisher. Kotick is named in one of these allegations as he reportedly harassed and threatened to kill and destroy his assistant and a flight attendant on his private jet. He also intervened to keep multiple other alleged assailants at the company with little repercussions for their actions.
Activision’s board of directors issued a statement in support of Kotick shortly after Kotick gave his own response. It said, “The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment, and ability to achieve these goals.”
Several shareholders respond to the report
In the most recent news as reported by the Washington Post, Activision’s shareholders — which include SOC Investment Group, Future Super, NEI Investments, Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) and Verve Super — have sent a letter to Activision’s board of directors. In it, they ask that Kotick resign from his position and that chairman Brian Kelly and lead independent director Robert J. Morgado announce their retirement by the end of the year.
They go on to say that they’re suspicious of the board’s apparent lack of knowledge of the continued bad behavior at the company: “We find it implausible that sexist, discriminatory, and unlawful practices as widespread as those alleged in the California DFHE lawsuit could have occurred without the board’s knowledge if the board had appropriate oversight practices in place.”
The shareholders said in the letter that, if the board does not take action against Kotick, Kelly, and Morgado, “we would be unable to support the re-election of incumbent directors and would urge our fellow shareholders to do the same.” They added that the replacement of these people wasn’t enough, and a third-party source should review the board for their alleged negligence. The shareholders who signed the letter account for less than 5 million shares of the company’s stock, which is around 1% of the total number of shares.
Activision’s employees walk out in protest
They are not alone in calling for Kotick’s resignation. After the Wall Street Journal’s report went live, hundreds of Activision employees staged a walkout, with several bearing signs calling for Kotick to leave the company. ABK Alliance, a group made up of current Activision employees calling for positive changes in their workplace, said on Twitter, “We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source.”
The shareholders who signed the letter account for less than 5 million shares of the company’s stock, which is around 1% of the total number of shares.
Others in the gaming industry are criticizing the company’s response to the report. PlayStation’s Jim Ryan said in an email to staff (reported by Bloomberg) that he was “stunned” to read the report and noted that Activision “has not done enough to address a deep-seated culture of discrimination and harassment.”
He added that, “We outreached to Activision immediately after the article was published to express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims made in the article. We do not believe their statements of response properly address the situation.”
Jen Oneal didn’t start with equal pay to her male counterpart
The report exposed that the company’s problems are apparently not a thing of the past. One of the big revelations in the story was that former Blizzard co-lead Jen Oneal, who recently announced her departure from the company, did so because she felt she was not treated equally and her complaints were not heard by upper management — especially her concern about receiving less pay than her male co-lead, Mike Ybarra. Oneal became a co-leader of Blizzard along with Ybarra following the departure of J. Allen Brack.
In a series of public Slack messages viewed by IGN, Ybarra tried to explain the pay disparity between the two and protested that he and Oneal were not paid the same amount because it took some time for their pay to shift from what it was in their old positions (where Oneal was paid less). He claimed that they were to be paid equally as co-leaders. Oneal fired back saying that she was only offered equal pay to Ybarra after she informed Blizzard that she was leaving.
At the time of writing, Kotick is still in his position as Activision’s CEO.
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