Connect with top gaming leaders in Los Angeles at GamesBeat Summit 2023 this May 22-23. Register here.
Updated at 4 p.m. Pacific with Kirton’s official job title.
Kathryn Kirton, former senior manager of public relations at Activision U.K., pleaded guilty to embezzling Call of Duty funding to live it up — and was apparently fearless in doing so. Her celebrity lifestyle included an engagement party at an exclusive central London venue, a stay at a luxury hotel with her fiancé, and three designer shopping sprees — and she reportedly invited her boss to the engagement party the company would later unknowingly pay for.
Kirton admitted to using a total of £18,963 ($28,939) of company money intended for funding the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops. Kirton commissioned Frank PR consultant Jamie Kaye to help with the game’s launch. Kaye is also a defendant in the case, and admitted to stealing £5,000 ($7,630) from Activision. At least one of the shopping sprees and the two-night stay at the luxury Bagington House hotel happened in 2010.
GamesBeat Summit 2023
Join the GamesBeat community in Los Angeles this May 22-23. You’ll hear from the brightest minds within the gaming industry to share their updates on the latest developments.
GamesBeat reached out to Activision’s PR agency for comment on the matter and will update accordingly.
Kaye made the fraudulent purchases on his company credit card. He later invoiced Activision, which Kirton authorized, charging the money back to the publisher.
One such example, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, included buying £5,506 ($8,402) worth of designer clothes shopping for herself and her then-fiancé, Lee Kirton, on the Frank PR company card. She later authorized the reimbursement of that money to the external PR agency describing it as clothing for a magazine shoot connected with a Call of Duty launch. Prosecutor Kevin Dent said that “the clothes purchased have … nothing to do with Modern Warfare or any such game.”
Activision became suspicious of the charges, and investigators uncovered the fraud in February 2011.
Judge John Hillen of the Blackfriars Crown Court seemed more sympathetic than angry, saying that they were “in a position of considerable responsibility,” but adding that “there was repeat dishonesty over a period of months. There is no doubt your wickedness deserves a severe sentence.”
Hillen didn’t give Kirton jail time, saying that it would have a “devastating effect” on her 2-year-old son. Instead, he sentenced Kirton to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years. He sentenced Kaye to nine months, which he suspended for 12 months. Kaye will also have to put in 80 hours of unpaid work.
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Discover our Briefings.