Several top Activision Blizzard employees resigned or were let go by the company in the wake of the DFEH complaint and follow-up investigations. Some were directly implicated in allegations, including former chief technology officer Ben Kilgore and former lead developers for Diablo 4 and World of Warcraft. Company president J. Allen Brack, who the DFEH alleges knew about complaints of harassment, also resigned.
“In the past, we haven’t asked for anyone to resign,” says one Blizzard employee involved in the walkout. “We believed in the ability to fix this and have people learn and grow.” But after the bombshell report published by the WSJ Tuesday, the employee says when it comes to Kotick, “There’s the belief that the integrity isn’t there to allow learning and growing.”
The report alleges Kotick misrepresented his knowledge of the depth and breadth of misconduct allegations to both Activision Blizzard executives and board members. The board was reportedly blindsided by California DFEH’s complaint this summer, despite the department’s investigation stretching back two years. “Some departing employees who were accused of misconduct were praised on the way out, while their coworkers were asked to remain silent about the matters,” the WSJ reports.
The WSJ also recounts multiple accusations involving the CEO himself. Kotick allegedly harassed an assistant in 2006, including saying in a voicemail that he’d have her killed. A spokesperson for Kotick says he apologized at the time and regrets his tone. In 2007, a flight attendant on a private jet he co-owned sued Kotick after she was fired for complaining about the pilot’s alleged sexual harassment. Kotick settled with the attendant and paid her $200,000, according to the WSJ. A spokesperson for Kotick denied there was retaliation.
In a statement, Activision Blizzard denied the WSJ report and said it presented “a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO … The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace, and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their—and our—values.”
Kotick himself also sent a video message to employees on Tuesday, in which he said the report “paints an inaccurate and misleading view of our company, of me personally, and my leadership.” He added, “Anyone who doubts my conviction to be the most welcoming, inclusive workplace doesn’t really appreciate how important this is to me.” Kotick added that the company is moving forward with “a new zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior—and zero means zero. Any reprehensible conduct is simply unacceptable.” An Activision Blizzard spokesperson told WIRED that the company had no further comment.
“I don’t know that anyone I know at the company actually thinks Bobby Kotick and his Trump-era goons have employees’ best interests at heart,” says one current Blizzard employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions. (Chief compliance officer Frances Townsend worked as president George W. Bush’s Homeland Security Advisor and chief administration officer Brian Bulatao has worked with the Trump administration.)