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Activision Board of Directors Stand Behind CEO Bobby Kotick Following Damning Report

Update 11/16 11:37am PT: As the games industry reacts to the latest round of Activision Blizzard allegations and employees prepare a walkout, the Activision Blizzard Board released a statement reiterating its support for CEO Bobby Kotick.

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. 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.

Update 11/16 10:39 am PT: Following the explosive allegations against Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick reported by the Wall Street Journal, the ABK Workers Alliance announced that they would be staging a walkout. Among their demands is that Kotick step down as CEO.

“We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source,” the group wrote in a post on Twitter.

Activision Blizzard employees previously staged a walkout when harassment allegations first emerged over the summer. The original report continues below.

A new report claims that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick knew about alleged sexual assault and harassment allegations within company-owned studios, but did not disclose the information to the company’s board. The same report states that Jen Oneal – who was recently made co-head of Blizzard before announcing her departure just three months later – has previously experienced harassment at the company, was paid less than her male counterpart Mike Ybarra, and had said she was “tokenized” by the company.

A new Wall Street Journal report continues the long-running scandal within Activision Blizzard, which came to light when the state of California filed a lawsuit against the company. The report centres on Kotick, and says that internal documents and sources familiar with the company show that the CEO was aware of many of the reported abuses within the company – including accusations of rape that were emailed directly to Kotick – but did not inform the board of everything he knew.

An Activision spokesperson told the WSJ that “Mr. Kotick would not have been informed of every report of misconduct at every Activision Blizzard company, nor would he reasonably be expected to have been updated on all personnel issues.”

Kotick himself told the WSJ that ‘he and the board now expect to be kept better informed than in the past about workplace issues,’ and that examples raised in its reporting are exceptions to the company’s normal behaviour.

Update 11/16 9:46 am PT: Following the publication of WSJ’s report, Kotick issued a public message calling the article “inaccurate and misleading” of the company and himself. Kotick also said that anyone who “doubts [his] conviction” to creating the most inclusive workplace “doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.” You can read the full message here.

The report also includes a number of new accusations against current and former employees. Dan Bunting, co-head of Treyarch, is alleged to have sexually harassed a female employee in 2017 but, despite HR recommendations that he be fired, was kept on after counseling because of his contribution to the Call of Duty series. Bunting has reportedly left Treyarch after the WSJ asked to discuss the alleged incident.

A Sledgehammer Games supervisor, Javier Panameno was reportedly accused of rape by a female employee, as well as harassment of a second woman. Panameno was ultimately fired. Another Sledgehammer employee, Eduard Roerich, was also accused of sexual harassment. Roerich was given two weeks of paid leave and moved position within Activision, before being let go from the company after a separate incident in which he argued with a manager.

The report also includes a section on the departure of Jen Oneal, who was appointed co-head of Blizzard in August – the company’s first female leader – but resigned after three just months. Oneal reportedly emailed Activision Blizzard leadership after a month in the role, saying that “it was clear that the company would never prioritize our people the right way.” The report says she was paid less than her male co-leader, Mike Ybarra and had told leadership that she had been “tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.” Oneal also alleges that she was sexually harassed at Activision prior to her time as co-head of the company.

After July’s lawsuit, Activision Blizzard has seen multiple high profile departures, walkouts, scandal-related game changes, SEC subpoenas, and the cancellation of BlizzCon 2022. You can read our timeline of events to see the entire story in one place.

Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News. Follow him on Twitter. Have a tip for us? Want to discuss a possible story? Please send an email to newstips@ign.com.

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