In internal conversations, Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has raised the possibility of leaving the company, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.
Kotick, whose impeachment has been demanded from employee groups to investor representatives, has led Activision since 1991. A week ago, the Journal published a report depicting Kotick as aware of multiple sexual harassment allegations — including an alleged rape — that he either did not its board of directors or otherwise minimize its seriousness. Activision and its board of directors have challenged that story as “a misleading portrayal of Activision Blizzard and our CEO.”
The Journal’s latest story says Kotick met on Friday with Blizzard Entertainment executives who “stopped saying he was stepping down.” But if the sexual misconduct, discrimination and toxic workplace problems that have plagued the company for the past six months couldn’t be remedied “urgently”, he left the option open.
The Journal said it had spoken to those familiar with his comments during the meeting.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision in late July over a pattern of workplace discrimination and harassment against women, particularly within Blizzard Entertainment, which joined Activision in 2008. That news led to an employee’s strike and the departure of Blizzard president J. Allen Brack.
Activision then, for $18 million, settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, on grounds similar to California’s DFEH claim. A shareholder lawsuit filed in August also alleges that the company’s negligent leadership hurt its stock price. The US Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating the company’s handling of allegations of discrimination, harassment and sexual misconduct.
Since then, more than 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed a petition calling on Kotick to resign. On Wednesday, a shareholder group requested the resignation of Kotick and two other Activision Blizzard board members, Brian Kelly and Robert Morgado, before December 31.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that, after a week in which several analysts downgraded the company’s shares, Truist Securities also called for a CEO change on Friday. That comes along with top PlayStation and Xbox executives criticizing Activision in a note to their own employees, with Xbox boss Phil Spencer saying he was “evaluating all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard”.
[Disclosure: Casey Wasserman is on the board of directors for Activision Blizzard as well as the board of directors of Vox Media, Polygon’s parent company.]