The Activision Blizzard board has re-elected Bobby Kotick as the company's CEO. Despite Kotick's reputation among employees and the wider industry, the board decided to keep Kotick on for another year. ABK has also confirmed it will "consider" a proposed report into its handling of alleged workplace harassment.
Why has the Activision Blizzard board re-elected Bobby Kotick?
According to an Activision Blizzard filing representing a shareholder meeting held yesterday, Kotick was re-elected by quite a significant shareholder margin. This decision was made despite the fact that Kotick has been called on to resign by shareholders and criticized heavily by employees, with many directly calling him out for an alleged culture of workplace harassment within Activision Blizzard. This is also the same board that will decide on whether Kotick receives a massive bonus this summer dependent on whether workplace issues have sufficiently improved (although, apparently, there aren't actually any systemic issues to ignore, according to a recent Activision report).
As well as Kotick's re-election, Activision Blizzard also says it will "carefully consider" a shareholder vote to prepare a report about ABK's investigations into workplace harassment. Approximately 67% of ABK shareholders voted for the report, which the board originally urged said shareholders to reject back in May. However, it's worth noting that this report isn't binding; Activision Blizzard doesn't have to take any action if it doesn't want to. Still, 67% of shareholders could well be too many to ignore; Microsoft found itself in a similar situation (note: article behind paywall) back in November last year and eventually chose to disclose its internal sexual harassment policies on an annual basis.
It's also worth noting here that the ABK Workers Alliance, a worker advocacy group formed in the wake of the Activision Blizzard lawsuits, has pledged to hold the company to account for its claims. Speaking via Twitter, ABK founder Jessica Gonzalez said the company's employees "will hold them to [the report]", and the official ABK Workers Alliance Twitter account followed up by saying it's "important to be transparent" about sexual harassment and discrimination. Here's hoping that ABK is indeed held accountable and that this report materializes.
Activision Blizzard's turbulent history
For the gaming world at large, this all began in July 2021, when Activision Blizzard was sued over its toxic workplace environment. However, for the employees who were victims or who knew victims of this alleged harassment, it's been going on for much longer. As soon as the allegations emerged, companies such as Xbox and PlayStation criticized Activision Blizzard for its handling of the situation, and a number of government organizations and shareholder collectives began to take legal action against the company. During this time, employees continued to speak out about the sexual harassment they had faced during their time at Activision Blizzard.
Earlier this year, Microsoft acquired Activision Blizzard for a record-breaking $68.7 billion. In light of that acquisition, many employees are cautiously optimistic that things could change at the company, but Kotick's reappointment likely won't fill those employees with confidence. It seems like the board at large supports Kotick, and by extension the status quo. There's also no sign that Activision Blizzard's ongoing issues are affecting its bottom line at all, with recent mobile and PC release Diablo Immortal racking up a staggering $24 million in just two weeks. There are murmurs that Kotick won't stay beyond the finalizing of the Microsoft-ABK deal, but we'll have to wait and see whether anything comes of those murmurs. Until then, it's business as usual for Activision Blizzard, it seems.