Embattled Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick to Resign Dec. 29

The company was acquired by Microsoft in a deal that closed in October

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Bobby Kotick, the longtime CEO of video game powerhouse Activision Blizzard, will resign on Dec. 29. The move follows the company’s acquisition by Microsoft, which closed in October for $68 billion after a long fight with federal regulators.

It also comes just 5 days after the company agreed to pay $54 million to settle a massive employment discrimination and equal pay lawsuit filed by the state of California.

In a memo to employees, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s video game division that oversees Activision Blizzard, said, “I’d like to thank Bobby—for his invaluable contributions to this industry, his partnership in closing the Activision Blizzard acquisition and his collaboration following the close—and I wish him and his family the very best in his next chapter.”

Spencer also said the company’s leadership will largerly remain in place. In a seperate letter to employees, Kotick praised Spencer and wrote nostalgically about his history with the company.

Kotick first joined Activision as CEO in 1991, and remained in the role after the company merged with Vivendi, parent company of, among other things, “World of Warcraft” maker Blizzard, to form Activision Blizzard in 2008.

At the time of the merger, Activision was already the leader in first person shooter games thanks to the “Call of Duty” series, and also counted the “Guitar Hero” franchise among its other huge hits. Blizzard meanwhile dominated online gaming with “Warcraft” and also launched the popular “Diablo” and “Starcraft” franchises, and that’s in addition to Vivendi’s roster of other successful video game publishers.

The combined company was by 2018 the most successful video game conglomerate in the U.S. and Europe.

But in the California lawsuit, filed in July 2021, Activision Blizzard was likened to a “Frat House.” Among other things, the lawsuit revealed a corporate environment rife with sexual harassment, gender discrimination and accusations of sexual assault going back years.

Activision Blizzard initially deflected, calling the claims “distorted, and in many cases false,” and it insisted that all such incidents happened in “Blizzard’s past.” Following internal uproar and heavy public criticism, Kotick later apologized for what he said was the company’s “tone Deaf” response and vowed to review how the company handled such complaints.

But in November of that year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick had known about these problems for years but had hidden much of it from the company’s board of directors — including multiple women who reported being raped.

Despite this, the company’s board stood by him. This resulted in a shareholder revolt in early 2022, as investors defied the board and ordered the company to issue an annual report on sexual misconduct and make that report public. Nevertheless, Kotick remained in his position, leading the company through its acquisition by Microsoft.

Activision Blizzard finally reached a $54 million settlement with the state of California just 5 days ago, on Dec. 15.


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