Activision Blizzard’s controversial boss Bobby Kotick has said he will stay on as the company’s CEO for the remainder of 2023, following Microsoft’s long-awaited acquisition of the company today.
A statement from Xbox boss Phil Spencer says similar, with Kotick’s tenure at the company set to continue through “the end of 2023” to “ensure a smooth and seamless integration”.
Neither notice makes it explicit what will happen next year, though the wording of both statements suggests Kotick’s departure is possible as early as January 2024.
“I have long said that I am fully committed to helping with the transition,” Kotick wrote in his statement to Activision Blizzard staff. “Phil has asked me to stay on as CEO of ABK, reporting to him, and we have agreed that I will do that through the end of 2023. We both look forward to working together on a smooth integration for our teams and players.”
“Bobby Kotick has agreed to remain in his role through the end of 2023, reporting directly to me,” Spencer similarly wrote, “to ensure a smooth and seamless integration. We look forward to working together as a unified team and we will share more updates on our new organisational structure in the coming months.”
Kotick and the rest of the Activision Blizzard board resigned as directors of the company today as part of the acquisition process.
The company’s CEO has long been a divisive figure, with his enormous salary raising eyebrows while regular staff suffered layoffs rounds of layoffs. In 2020, shareholders were urged to vote against Kotick’s proposed bulging bonus package, as the average Activision employee earned less than one percent of what Kotick did each year.
But it was the wave of allegations which emerged from Activision Blizzard in 2021 – and the lawsuit filed by the State of California to investigate further – that brought the CEO to wider attention. Kotick was forced to admit the company’s initial statement on the matter had been “tone deaf”, as employees staged protests and signed a petition with thousands of signatures. Kotick said he would take a large pay cut until the issue was resolved, but could not shake criticism.
A damning report by the Wall Street Journal in November 2011 alleged Kotick had been well aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct and mistreatment of female employees across many parts of the company “for years”, yet failed to tell the board of directors and executives everything he knew. (Activision responded to that report to say that its board was “confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention”). Another employee protest followed, as did a further employee petition, this time demanding Kotick step down, and even some shareholders demanded Kotick quit. (He did not.) There was rare cross-industry condemnation from other video game companies, also, including PlayStation boss Jim Ryan and Xbox’s Phil Spencer. The scandal’s impact on the company’s reputation and share price prompted buyout talks between it and Microsoft to then begin, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
Exactly how much Kotick stands to earn as and when he eventually leaves Activision Blizzard remains to be seen. Last year, US politicians criticised plans for a substantial pay package for Kotick if he left following the Microsoft deal’s acquisition. One report at the time suggested the CEO could receieve $400m.
Earlier this week, Kotick hosted a town hall-style meeting with employees to discuss the future of Activision Blizzard and the games industry in general, which he presented alongside Gavin and Stacey actor James Corden.
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