You could say that Activision Blizzard has been having a bad year. This all began on July 21, 2021 when the state of California filed a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard to counter the “frat boy workplace culture” at the company.
Sitting right in the middle of the scandal and controversy around Activision Blizzard is of course the Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick. The news broke on November 16 that Kotick had known for years about the sexual harassment and workplace abuse at the company, but did nothing to protect his people. This prompted over 100 employees to walk off the job in protest and a small group of shareholders to call for his removal from office. Kotick has recently been the subject of an employee petition calling on him to step down. There has been a public petition to the same effect. People from across the games industry have been asking for his resignation. This includes the Vice President of Microsoft, Phil Spencer, and the Chief Executive Officer of Sony, Jim Ryan, who have both claimed to be reconsidering their business relationships with Activision Blizzard. Girls Who Code has already severed their ties to the company.
Kotick has been coming under fire from all sides for weeks, but he refuses to step down even despite the numerous calls for his resignation. He must have some backers because he would surely have been long gone by now otherwise. Who could still be standing with Kotick? The answer is of course the board of directors which put out a strong statement of support on November 17.
“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick’s leadership, the company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce, and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention”.
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“The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment, and ability to achieve these goals”.
Who exactly are these board members? There are nine of them in total apart from Kotick who needs no introduction.
Reveta Bowers has been working as an organizational consultant since 2016. She was a teacher and administrator for over 40 years at an independent school for children. She also happens to be a board member for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Edward Ford Foundation, Rossier School of Education, Dream Fund for Scholars, Teachers College of Columbia University, Fedco Charitable Foundation, and Common Sense Media. She served as a board member for the Walt Disney Company from 1993 to 2003. She was briefly investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for corporate nepotism around this time.
Robert Corti started his career in the tax department of a cosmetics company back in 1976. He worked at this company, Avon Products, for over 25 years. Corti held various positions in the finance department including Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. He retired from Avon Products in 2006. Corti is a board member for Bacardi Limited and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. He was a board member for the Avon Products Foundation from 1998 to 2015 and ING Direct from 2008 to 2012.
Hendrik Hartong is the Chief Executive Officer of a private equity firm called Brynwood Partners that just happens to have been founded by his father. He jumped ship from the Lincoln Snacks Company after Brynwood Partners pulled the plug on their financing. Hartong was accused of union busting when the workers of a cookie company, Stella D’oro, decided to strike when he cut their wages and benefits. Hartong worked in sales and marketing for Baskin Robbins and Nestle. He is a board member for the Harvest Hill Beverage Company and the Hometown Food Company. These are both owned by Brynwood Partners.
Brian Kelly started working for Activision Blizzard in 1991. He has been a board member since 1995. He founded the Call of Duty Endowment and the Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance.
Barry Meyer was the Director of Business Affairs at Warner Brothers Entertainment. He worked at the company for 28 years and then served as a board member for another 14 years. Meyer founded the consulting firm North Ten Mile Associates. He is a board member for the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Hollywood Radio and Television Society, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. He also happens to be a board member for Human Rights Watch.
Robert Morgado founded an investment company called the Maroley Media Group in 1995. He was the Chief Executive Officer of Warner Music from 1985 to 1995. Morgado was forced to resign after a scandal in 1995. He is a board member for the Maui Arts and Cultural Center. He owns Nest Family, Nest Learning Systems, and a real estate company called Kaanapali Kai. Morgado has worked for Activision Blizzard since 1997.
Peter Nolan has been a board member since 2013. He is the Senior Advisor to Leonard Green and Partners. Nolan was the Managing Director in the investment banking department of Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette from 1990 to 1997. He was the Vice President of Drexel Burnham Lambert from 1986 to 1990 and Prudential Securities from 1982 to 1986. Nolan is currently a board member for AerSale Holdings, Diamond Wipes International, and Golden Road Food Services.
Dawn Ostroff has only been a board member for Activision Blizzard since 2020. She is the Chief Content and Advertising Business Officer of Spotify Technology. Ostroff founded Conde Nast Entertainment, serving as the President from 2011 to 2018. She was the President of the CW Television Network, President of the United Paramount Network, Vice President of Lifetime Television, Vice President of Twentieth Century Fox, President of Michael Jacobs Productions at the Walt Disney Company, and the Vice President of the Kushner-Locke Company.
Casey Wasserman is the Chief Executive Officer of the Wasserman Foundation. He serves as a board member for the Saban Capital Acquisition Corporation and Vox Media. The latter owns a variety of publications including Polygon. He is a board member for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2028.
Corti, Kelly, Morgado, and of course Kotick have all been board members for Blizzard Entertainment for over 15 years.
The question at this point is whether or not Kotick will accept his responsibility as a leader and simply step down from his position as the Chief Executive Officer of Activision Blizzard. The employees want this to happen. The shareholders want this to happen. The public even wants this to happen. But will Bobby do it? Time will tell.
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About The Author
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Justin is an archaeologist specializing in architecture, urbanism and spatial theory. He also happens to be a pilot. But you probably know him as a columnist at Unwinnable and an editor at TheGamer where he writes articles and publishes news about games. You can find some of his work in EGM, Vice, Heterotopias and more.
From Justin Reeve