Earlier this week, a Wall Street Journal article alleged that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick had suppressed reports of harassment and abuse at the company over the years. Now, two of the publisher’s most important partners – Xbox and PlayStation – are criticising the company, and 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a petition calling for Kotick’s removal as CEO.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer sent an email to staff saying that he is “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard and making ongoing proactive adjustments”, according to a report from Bloomberg. A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that Bloomberg’s report is accurate, and passed along an additional statement from Spencer.
“I personally have strong values for a welcoming and inclusive environment for all of our employees at Xbox,” Spencer says. “This is not a destination but a journey that we will always be on. The leadership at Xbox and Microsoft stand by our teams and support them in building a safer environment for all.”
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that a similar email was distributed to PlayStation staff by division boss Jim Ryan, saying that the company had reached out to Activision Blizzard in order to “express our deep concern and to ask how they plan to address the claims” of the original WSJ report.
ABK Workers Alliance, a group of Activision Blizzard employees, has launched a petition calling for an end to Kotick’s tenure as CEO. The petition now has the signatures of over 1,000 employees and contractors.
We have just passed over 1k signatures https://t.co/XxlYeJZBtW
— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 18, 2021
“We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in the leadership of Bobby Kotick as the CEO of Activision Blizzard,” the petition reads. “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.”
ABK Workers Alliance has also launched a petition asking for public support of Kotick’s removal. That petition currently has over 4,000 signatures.
Asked for comment, an Activision Blizzard representative provided the following statement: “We respect all feedback from our valued partners and are engaging with them further. We have detailed important changes we have implemented in recent weeks, and we will continue to do so. We are committed to the work of ensuring our culture and workplace are safe, diverse, and inclusive. We know it will take time, but we will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.”
Activision Blizzard is facing a lawsuit filed in July by the state of California (since expanded for QA and customer service contractors) alleging years of discrimination and harassment. Since then, CEO Bobby Kotick has called the company’s initial response “tone deaf”, employees have staged a walkout, Blizzard president J Allen Brack has left, and the ABK Workers Alliance has demanded change at the company. The lawsuit is ongoing; follow the latest developments here.
In September, an agency of the US federal government opened an investigation into Activision Blizzard’s response to sexual misconduct and discrimination complaints from its employees, as part of which Kotick has reportedly been subpoenaed. The company is also facing a separate unfair labour practice suit alleging “worker intimidation and union busting” filed by a workers’ union, also in September. In another, separate development, Activision Blizzard reached an agreement with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “to settle claims and to further strengthen policies and programs to prevent harassment and discrimination”. In a subsequent letter to employees, the company has announced an end to forced arbitration, a $250 million initiative to improve diversity, and a major pay cut for Kotick.
A new report published this November now alleges Bobby Kotick knew about and suppressed reports of sexual misconduct. Kotick has responded with an official statement saying the Wall Street Journal’s article “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” In reply, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors declared it “remains confident” in Kotick’s leadership.