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Activision Blizzard employees petition for CEO Bobby Kotick’s resignation

(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/iStock/Washington Post illustration)
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Over 1,000 Activision Blizzard employees have signed an ongoing petition calling for CEO Bobby Kotick to resign, as of 4:05 p.m. Eastern time. The petition, which was posted to the company’s internal Slack at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, follows the publication of a Tuesday report by the Wall Street Journal alleging that Kotick knew about sexual misconduct claims at the video game company but failed to inform its board of directors.

The petition leads with a letter calling for Kotick to step down and for shareholders to vote on a new CEO without his input.

“We, the undersigned, no longer have confidence in the leadership of Bobby Kotick as the CEO of Activision Blizzard. The information that has come to light about his behaviors and practices in the running of our companies runs counter to the culture and integrity we require of our leadership — and directly conflicts with the initiatives started by our peers,” the letter reads. It also requests that Kotick who owns a substantial number of company shares — just under 4 million — not participate in the selection of the new CEO.

When the letter was first publicized Thursday by the Twitter account for A Better ABK, a group of Activision, Blizzard and King employees advocating for workers’ interests, it had approximately 500 signatories. Those who organized the creation of the petition say they expect more of their colleagues to sign on moving forward. Activision Blizzard has over 9,500 workers across multiple studios.

“Five hundred [signatures] was enough for us to feel confident in not being retaliated against,” said Valentine Powell, a senior engineer on “World of Warcraft.” “We will continue updating the petition as more signatures are added, so it won’t only be 500 in the end.”

The petition will “show leadership we mean business and we’re not settling for the bare minimum anymore,” said Jessica Gonzalez, a senior test analyst for Battle.net at Blizzard, a major subsidiary of the company.

In response to The Post’s inquiries about the employee petition, Activision Blizzard pointed to its board of director’s public statement from Tuesday: “The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention … The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability.”

On Tuesday, Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout calling for the resignation of several executives, Kotick among them. On Wednesday, a group of Activision Blizzard shareholders with a total of 4.8 million shares sent a letter to the company’s board of directors demanding the same.

Among other allegations, The Wall Street Journal’s story also addressed the resignation of Jen Oneal, the woman appointed to co-lead Blizzard Entertainment in the wake of former president J. Allen Brack’s resignation in August after he was named in a lawsuit from a California state agency over claims of widespread sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and pay inequality in the workplace. In September, Oneal emailed Activision’s legal team to discuss her resignation, saying that she had been underpaid compared to her male co-lead, Mike Ybarra. Oneal announced her departure earlier this month.

“I’m toward the top [of the list of signatures], and I’m just tired. I want the company to improve, and I don’t have confidence it’ll happen with current leadership,” said John Ehresmann, a senior test analyst at Blizzard. “[Bobby Kotick has] got a long history of not doing the right thing and this Jen [Oneal] situation is just the most recent example in a long history of missteps.”

Over the past several months, Activision Blizzard has come under fire from many directions. In addition to the lawsuit from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, it is also under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and is being sued in an August class-action suit from shareholders alleging violation of federal securities laws. Additionally, there is an unfair labor practice complaint against the company filed by workers and the Communications Workers of America, a major media labor union.

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