Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has reportedly told the company’s senior management that he would consider stepping down if the malpractice and toxic work culture issues are not resolved quickly. According to the Wall Street Journal, Kotick met with management on Friday to explain that he is not currently stepping down, but it would be a possibility if the issues couldn’t be “quickly” fixed. This follows an earlier Wall Street Journal report last week about Kotick’s alleged knowledge and protection of molesters, as well as his own reported mistreatment of women.
The company’s misconduct problems became known as early as July when a lawsuit was filed in California for discrimination and sexual harassment of its employees. The lawsuit alleged years of inappropriate behavior by male workers, as well as discrimination, including encouraging male colleagues from female colleagues should they become pregnant and wage differentials. Since the filing of the lawsuit, “more than 500 additional internal reports of harassment, assault, other misconduct and other problems” have been sent to the company, which is currently being investigated.
Despite knowing the sexual assault and abuse allegations at Activision, Kotick hid her from investors. This included not informing the board of directors about rape allegations from 2016 and 2017 and the resulting out-of-court settlement and protecting a studio manager from being recommended to dismiss after internal and external reviews. Kotick himself hasn’t avoided the controversy either. After an assistant complained about harassment in 2006, including allegations that Kotick “threatened to have her killed in a voicemail,” he settled the dispute out of court.
According to the Wall Street Journal report last week, many employees have staged a labor dispute. Members of the A Better ABK employee coalition are calling for Kotick to be replaced as CEO and an independent investigation into the allegations. Some investors are also calling for Kotick to step down, while both PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan and Xbox CEO Phil Spencer have criticized the company’s response to the allegations and have re-evaluated their partnerships. Girls Who Code, a nonprofit, has also terminated its partnership with Activision, stating that advocating women and other underrepresented groups in technology is and always will be their “priority.” Even so, Activision Blizzard’s board of directors has so far only issued one statement that stands behind Kotick and his leadership in the company.[Source: Wall Street Journal (1, 2), Girls Who Code]